Murder of Martha McKay Continues To Haunt Family And Friends

Murder of Martha McKay Continues To Haunt Family And Friends

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It is nearly a year since Martha McKay was murdered in a case that would be called too far-fetched if it had appeared in the plot of a movie. Martha was murdered on March 25, 2020 by Travis Lewis, the same man who murdered her mother 24 years earlier. Lewis also murdered Martha’s cousin Memphis blues / rock musician Lee Baker right after he murdered Martha’s mother. A double homicide. Martha’s mother was murdered only a few houses from where Martha was murdered. Martha was murdered at the Snowden House, a historic antebellum-style home in Arkansas, which she purchased from her family, restored and operated as a luxury bed-and-breakfast.

Although almost one year has passed since the day she was killed on March 25, 2020, many of Martha’s friends and family are still trying to make sense of her tragic murder. By all accounts, she was a gregarious and a kind hearted woman who always surrounded herself with friends. However, those that knew her best believe that it may have been her friendly side that got her killed. Martha was found dead on that fateful day at the Snowden House, on Horseshoe Lake, Arkansas. 63-year-old Martha was discovered stabbed and bludgeoned to death on the second floor landing. Nearby was a bag filled with her belongings, as well as a utility knife. Hearing screams and signs of what they thought was a struggle, a neighbor called the cops. Officers arrived just in time to see a man fleeing across the grounds of the property. The fleeing man jumped in a nearby lake and drowned as he tried to get away. It was when police pulled him out, however, that they got the biggest shock: it was Travis Lewis, who had been convicted at 17 for the horrific 1996 murders of Martha’s mother, Sally Snowden McKay, 75, and her cousin, Joseph “Lee” Baker, 52, a prominent Memphis blues guitarist. 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. Sending a 17 year old juvenile to a hard core adult prison will only make the boy come out worse than when he went in.

In the immediate aftermath of Martha’s mother’s murder last year, friends and family members said that Martha had befriended Lewis while he was still in prison and was trying to help with his rehabilitation. Martha visited Lewis in prison over the years. Despite warnings of those close to her, it later emerged that Martha actively worked to help Lewis get parole. One acquaintance who spoke to journalists at the crime news feed, said that Martha was a longtime Buddhist who believed that “everybody has a good side.” Martha’s belief in the potential good inside her mother’s killer led her to write him letters in prison and suggest that he become part of her life when he was finally released. Martha also felt bad that Lewis was so young when the murders took place – and believed his claim that someone else was responsible, according to Crittenden County Sheriff Mike Allen. Lewis only got sentenced to 28.5 years after he pleaded guilty to a double homicide when he was 17 years old. Most guys would have got life.

When his parole was finally granted in 2018, thanks to help from Martha, Martha gave him a job doing work at the Snowden House. But she did so without telling many people inside her circle of friends and family. Just before she was murdered, Martha had fired Lewis because she suspected that he stole $10,000.00 in cash that she had stored in the Snowden House. Getting fired from a job while on parole would have landed Lewis back in prison. The prospect of going back to prison must have terrified Lewis. A guy who commits a double homicide by definition is not playing with a full deck. A guy who spends 20 years in a violent prison is not playing with a full deck. Martha thought she was helping the guy. Martha had no idea what she was getting herself into. Lewis would rather drown himself in a lake than go back to prison.

One year after her murder, Martha’s friends are still trying to figure out why Martha went to such lengths to give Lewis a second chance. Was she simply wrong about the good inside Lewis, paying a tragic price for her naïveté?  Was Martha trying to connect with her mother through her mother’s killer? Or was there more to the story than that?

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