Paroled prisoner murders woman 24 years after killing her mother

Arkansas killer convicted for 1996 homicide murders victim’s daughter a stone’s throw away from the original crime scene.


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Victim Martha McKay and her killer, Travis Santay Lewis, who murdered McKay's mother in 1996
Martha McKay and her killer, Travis Santay Lewis, who murdered McKay's mother in 1996
(Crittenden County Sheriff's Department)

Even when we hold a rational view of criminality, some crimes are so darkly intertwined that they appear fated rather than willed.

Such seems the case of Martha McKay, a woman in her mid-60s who was found dead on Wednesday morning at her home, the historic Snowden House at Horseshoe Lake, Arkansas.

Police believe she was murdered by 39-year-old Travis Santay Lewis, the same man who killed her mother, Sally Snowden McKay, at a nearby home nearly 24 years ago.

In the 1996 crime, Lewis killed the mother and her nephew, popular Memphis blues/rock musician Lee Baker, when they surprised him as he was burgling the mother’s house.

Just 16 at the time of the murders, Lewis was charged as an adult and pleaded guilty. He received a sentence of 28 and a half years and got parole in 2018.

Joe Baker, original victim Lee Baker’s son, told WREG that Martha McKay had befriended Lewis while he was still in prison and was trying to help with his rehabilitation.

Tragically, she paid the ultimate price for her remarkable forgiveness.

Deputies responding to an alarm at Snowden House on Wednesday found the back door open and spotted a man jumping from an upstairs window, Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal reports.

The man ran to a vehicle and tried driving it across the yard but got stuck in mud, according to Crittenden County Sheriff Mike Allen.

“The suspect then jumped from the car and ran and jumped into the lake. He was observed going under the water and never came back up,” Allen said in a statement.

Police found the body of Martha McKay inside her home. Rescue teams later recovered the body of the drowned man, since identified as Lewis.

The exact cause of McKay’s death is yet to be determined. Some neighbors reported hearing from deputies that she was stabbed, while others suggested that the murder weapon was a hammer.

Location:22 miles southwest of Memphis
Median Household Income:$30,333
Quirky Fact:Snowden House on the banks of Horseshoe Lake served as a location for the 1994 movie adaptation of John Grisham’s legal thriller novel The Client.

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