Woman killed by same man who murdered her mother 24 years ago, police say

HUGHES, Ark. — An Arkansas woman was stabbed to death Wednesday at her historic bed-and-breakfast by the same man who killed her mother and cousin -- on the same property -- 24 years ago, authorities said.

Martha McKay was killed inside Snowden House, a colonial-style mansion located on Horseshoe Lake in Crittenden County.

Swimming at Horseshoe Lake on Fall Equinox

Posted by Martha McKay on Thursday, September 26, 2019

Crittenden County Sheriff Mike Allen said deputies responded Wednesday to an alarm at McKay’s home. When they arrived, they found an open back door.

As they searched the home for an intruder, they saw a man, later identified as 39-year-old Travis Santay Lewis, jump from an upstairs window, Allen said. Lewis ran to a nearby car and attempted to drive away, but the vehicle got stuck in the yard.

Lewis ran from the car and jumped into the lake.

“He was observed going under the water and never came back up,” Allen said in a news release. “The Arkansas Game and Fish and Crittenden County Search and Rescue were called, and Game and Fish used their sonar equipment and Search and Rescue was able to locate and recover the body of the suspect.”

Meanwhile, Martha McKay’s body was found inside the house, the sheriff said. The motive for her killing is unknown.

According to the Memphis Flyer, family members said Martha McKay had been stabbed to death. Her sister, Katie Hutton, who shared the Flyer’s story on Facebook, mourned her sister.

“She is irreplaceable in my heart,” Hutton said.

In 1996, when he was 16 years old, Lewis killed Martha McKay’s mother, Sally Snowden McKay, and Sally McKay’s first cousin, Memphis musician Lee Baker, the Flyer reported. Tried as an adult, Lewis was sent to prison, where he served more than 20 years before being paroled in 2018, Allen said.

Martha McKay’s cousin, Dottie Jones, of Memphis, told the Flyer that the family had opposed a capital sentence when Lewis was convicted of the double homicide.

Martha McKay forgave and befriended Lewis while he served his time for her mother and cousin’s murders, which took place when the pair surprised him as he burglarized a house on the Snowden property, the newspaper said.

After killing Sally McKay and Baker, Lewis set the home on fire, the Flyer reported. That house sat not far from where the Snowden House sits today.

The bed-and-breakfast Martha McKay ran at her lavish home was the subject of a 2012 feature in Memphis magazine. The article, posted on Snowden House’s website, chronicled the history of the home, which was first built by her grandparents in 1919, and Martha McKay’s efforts to turn the beloved home into the venue it is today.

Sunset at Horseshoe Lake

Posted by Snowden House on Sunday, December 1, 2019

Living at the time in Virginia City, Nevada, she bought Snowden House and renovated it to be her home and a place for parties, weddings and other special events.

Martha McKay, who grew up in San Francisco, in 2012 recalled spending all her summers on Horseshoe Lake with her grandparents.

“Mother would bring us back for the summer and leave us here,” Martha McKay told the magazine. “It was just wonderful. I felt like I was royalty, with the big house and servants. Everything was fresh from the garden, fresh eggs and all, and we even had a peach orchard. We got to swim every day, and it was just ideal.

“Both my grandparents just loved having a houseful of kids, and they showed it.”

Listen to Martha McKay talk about Snowden House below, courtesy of Memphis magazine.

Comments on this article