Man charged with deaths of prostitutes

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Investigators of the slayings of 10 black women in the St. Louis area have accused a waiter and paroled robber in the deaths of two prostitutes abducted, tortured and strangled.

Arrested Friday, Maury Troy Travis, 36, surfaced after Internet sleuthing by investigators traced to him a letter and map sent last month to a newspaper, leading officers to a woman's corpse in St. Charles County, a federal complaint unsealed Monday said.

The complaint, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Ill., alleges that Travis, of the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, kidnapped and "caused the death" of prostitutes Alysia Greenwade and Betty James.

Greenwade's body was found April 1, 2001, in Washington Park, Ill., after being last seen earlier that day in north St. Louis County.

Two months later, James' corpse was found in St. Louis a week after last being seen in Venice, Ill.

Home searched

Tire impressions found next to Greenwade's body and on James' leg appear consistent with tires on Travis' 1992 Chevrolet Cavalier and 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse, authorities said. Searchers of Travis' home also found a locked file cabinet containing ligatures and belts splattered with what appeared to be blood, the federal complaint says.

Travis remained jailed without bond Monday, pending a federal hearing here Wednesday to determine his bond status and whether he should be sent to Illinois to face the charges.

Lee Lawless, Travis' court-appointed federal public defender, on Monday declined to comment.

Federal and local police also declined to publicly discuss the charges or the status of the investigation of the other eight women whose bodies have been found on both sides of the Mississippi River since April 2001.

Citing the torture and strangling deaths from May through October of last year of four other area prostitutes, the complaint does not accuse Travis in those deaths of Teresa Wilson, Verona Thompson, Yvonne Crues and Brenda Beasley.

In the federal complaint, FBI Special Agent Melanie Jimenez, an FBI agent, said Travis' arrest last week came about as follows:

Five days after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiled Wilson, the newspaper on May 24 received a letter, listing a return address of "I THRALLDOM" in New York City. The stamp was of an American flag, pasted onto the envelope upside down -- an international distress signal.

Along with a computer-printed letter complimenting the Post-Dispatch reporter on a "nice sob story about Teresa Wilson," the envelope had a computer-generated map showing an intersection in St. Charles County's West Alton suburb, along with a handwritten X. After the Post-Dispatch notified authorities, searchers found human skeletal remains within 50 yards of the site shown by the map's X, about 300 yards from where Wilson and Thompson earlier were found decomposed.

Four days later, investigators determined the letter and map were mailed locally, and that the return address -- "I THRALLDOM" -- was a Web site for bondage and sexual torture.

Thralldom is defined as condition of moral or mental servitude.

Illinois State Police searched the Internet mapping companies that led to a match between features on a map sent to Post-Dispatch and one found on Expedia.com.

The user name of that user address was "MSN/maurytravis," which investigators traced to Travis.

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