Travis Forbes

I often spend my days throughout the week watching (mainly rerun episodes) shows like Dateline and 48 Hours to find interest in cases I would like to discuss here.  Many times they are stories I remember hearing about in the past and sometimes they are even episodes I have seen but it has been some time so I like a refresher.  When it comes to this case, after watching the show I had not recalled seeing the story before.  This is a story of murder, as most of my blog are about but the part of this story that grabbed me the most was about survival.  

In so many cases in which a perpetrator has left a survivor in their wake it is the survivor that helps solve the case of so many others.  Look at the case of Ted Bundy.  It was a survivor that was able to tell her story to get a description of the man as well as the story he had fabricated to get her.  This case is a bit different in that aspect. It was the diligence of officers in another town pursuing Travis Forbes for another case that actually solved the survivor's case and in the end got Forbes to confess to their crime too.  It was as if the murder victim reached out from her, then unknown, grave and gave investigators the tools they needed to get this man off the street.  And yet it was the survivor of this man that inspired me the most to come here and make this story my next.

On April 1, 2011 19 year old Denver Colorado resident, Kenia Monge went out "clubbing" with some friends.  They all had fake ID's to get into bars, so why not?  Kenia would not make it home that night and for the next several months no one knew what happened to her. Her friends started texted others looking for her and eventually those texts made it to her family.  Kenia's father, Tony Lee tried to file a missing person's report but due to her age the law required that they wait a while before a report could be filed, Tony was not willing to wait to look for his daughter.  His first roadblock came when he tried talking to the girls that Kenia had been out with.  Fearing they would be in trouble for being underage and at the bar they were very evasive at first about where they had been and what had happened the night before.  Tony finally got through to them that finding Kenia was more important than their fear of being in trouble.  None of the girls really knew what happened.  They had simply lost track of Kenia but they had found her purse, phone and car keys at the bar.  They had looked for her and grabbed her things.  They believed they would find her eventually in the area. The fact that Kenia did not have her cell phone and other things was the first red flag for Tony and the rest of Kenia's family.  The girls gave Tony Kenia's things and later that day her phone received a text.  It said...."Hey, this is Travis, the guy who gave you a ride last night...white creepy van ... :) Did you get home okay?"

Tony contacted this Travis person and he agreed to meet Tony at the last place he claimed to have seen Kenia, a gas station.  Tony would later say that when he first met up with Travis he was convinced he was on the up and up and that there was no way this unassuming guy did anything but try to help his daughter as he told him.  When Tony left that meeting he said he felt differently.  Travis would tell Tony, and later police when they finally did get involved in investigating Kenia's disappearance, that he had seen her basically on the street, intoxicated, looking for her car.  He said he offered her a ride home after she could not locate her vehicle.  On the way he said they stopped at the gas station he had met Tony at to get cigarettes but found it to be closed.  It was there Travis claimed that Kenia had seen a man she claimed to know.  He would say that he only heard the name "Dan" and that in the end Kenia told him that she was going to leave with "Dan" and that he would take her home.

Now, something strikes me about this story, aside from it sounding fishy, and no one... not the program I watched... the articles I read or anything else addressed it.  Even the prosecutors would claim that the part about finding her wandering was likely true..... so if Kenia's phone was still at the bar and she did not meet up with Travis until after leaving the bar.... how did he have her phone number to text her phone the following day?  At any rate when Tony Lee would leave after meeting Travis at the gas station he went to shake his hand for agreeing to meet him and tell the story to him.  It was then that Tony would say he knew Travis had lied to him.  Tony would claim that when he shook Travis' hand although his hand itself did not shake he felt as if Travis was shaking all over which obviously indicated fear and in Tony's mind convinced him that Travis had harmed his daughter. But, as we all know, it takes more than just a feeling to arrest, let alone convict someone.

Once the police got involved they too looked into Travis.  For the next few months justice would seem to run slowly.  As the search for Kenia was in full force Travis even spoke to reporters.  The police were watching too.  Soon after speaking to reporters though Travis was gone.  It was around this time that a local bakery had discovered some missing money and when they went to their security cameras what they found was not a person taking money, but Travis Forbes disabling their security camera's but not before he was seen doing some unusual things.  Forbes had his own company that made gluten free granola bars and rented some space from the bakery.  This did not include space in their freezers since granola bars did not require refrigeration but he was seen putting a cooler in their freezers and wearing heavy duty cleaning gloves as well as using bleach and other cleaning products (although what he used them on was not seen).  Investigators also began talking to a girl by the name of Kerry Humphrey.  She was Travis' girlfriend at the time and said that while she had not gone out with Travis on April 1st she had seen him around 3:30 the following morning and had been with him until about 8:30.  Kerry would stick with this story until much later when investigators would confront her with cell phone records showing that Forbes was no where near her home as she claimed.  She would later admit that Travis asked her to lie for him.  He had never told her that he was involved with Kenia's disappearance but had first told her he had been sleeping in his van (which apparently was not unusual) and then later claimed that he had been on a "pot run" and seeing as he was on probation he did not want the authorities to know.  But at that point it really did not matter because authorities had no idea where he was.

For a bit it seemed as if things started falling into place over and over.  First an ex girlfriend (I am uncertain if this was Humphrey or another girl as nothing seemed to be specific) went to the police and told them that Travis had asked to borrow her car and had never returned it.  They encouraged her to file a stolen vehicle report knowing that if he was found for the stolen vehicle they then would know where he was... and they were right.  A patrol officer in Austin Texas apparently saw a vehicle with Colorado plates and decided to run them.  He found that not only was there a stolen report on the vehicle but that Travis was wanted as a suspect in a murder.  He was arrested and sent back to Colorado.  While in the Denver jail investigators were able to obtain his DNA but they had nothing to compare it to.  Travis did not stay in jail for long though because the ex-girlfriend knew he was being investigated for Kenia's disappearance and believed him to be innocent decided to drop the charges on the stolen vehicle and authorities were forced to let him go.  They decided to keep an eye on him though.

At first Travis seemed to stay in the Denver area and investigators even suspected that they would find Kenia's body near some of the places Travis went and they searched, but found nothing.  Soon after Travis decided to move to the college town of Ft. Collins Colorado where he had family.  Denver officers still trailed him, at least for a little while.  In fact, one night outside a bar Travis seemed to make a spectacle of himself. The Ft. Collins police took him aside while the Denver police were watching.  Basically he was just told to calm down and nothing came of the incident except that after Travis was out of the picture the Denver police approached the Ft. Collins officers and told them they were watching Travis as he was a suspect in a murder in their area.  Within a few days it seems Travis started staying more reclusive and considering budgets Denver decided to stop surveillance and returned home.  

Then on the early morning of July 5th things would change.  The fire department was called to an apartment that was on fire.  Lydia Tillman lived in the apartment and apparently at some point, although beaten and burned she jumped from a second story window to escape the fire.  It was obvious that she had been injured beyond the fire but all she could manage to say was she did not know who had attacked her.  Lydia would then suffer a stroke due to the apparent beating she had suffered and for the next five weeks she was placed in a medically induced coma.  It was uncertain for many days whether she would survive at all. Ft. Collins investigators had no clues to go on really.  They knew that Lydia had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled before her body was doused with bleach that was also spread throughout the apartment and then the apartment was set on fire.  They did know that Lydia had fought her attacker though and they took scrapings from her nails.  In the process one of the officer's who had spoken to the Denver officers told the investigators on Lydia's case about their encounter.  When investigators called Denver to see just who it was that they were investigating and told Denver officers what had happened in Lydia's home everyone became convinced that Travis Forbes was probably their guy and the best part was that Denver had a sample of Travis' DNA that could be compared to Lydia's case.

Before I go into the next part I want to make clear that the dates involved are less than clear. We know that obviously Travis was on the Ft. Collins radar really quickly.  Denver authorities had searched his van in their investigation into Kenia and the fact that bleach had been used destroying DNA there and that bleach had been used in Lydia's attack convinced them he was their man, but whether they were keeping tabs on him, I cannot say.  Most things I have found indicate that the following events took place,or began to take place on July 7th.... just a few days after Lydia was attacked.  However, in fairness in the event that information is mistaken, I did find at least one article that indicated that the events took place one month later on August 7th. At any rate Travis was stopped by an officer while he was with an obviously intoxicated female and seemed suspicious.  When asked his name Travis stated it was Travis Kennedy. Apparently the officer was either not aware of who he was speaking to but something told him to look into things after he allowed Travis and the girl go. In the meantime he learned that not only had Travis given him a false name but that he was a suspect in at least two violent cases against women.  Within an hour the officer found Travis again, who by now had changed his shirt and added a hat to his wardrobe. Most believe this was an attempt to hide in case the officer did exactly as he did, and went looking for him again.  When questioned again Travis admitted that he had lied about his name and while, once again, it was a minor charge he was arrested on false reporting. Officers were not going to be able to keep him long and in fact, just hours before they were going to have to release him they finally hit the jack pot when the DNA results came back pertaining to Lydia's case.  They had a match.  The DNA under her nails matched Travis. Almost immediately Travis was charged with the attempted murder of Lydia Tillman.  

By this time the officer in Denver investigating Kenia's case had spoken to Travis several times... first in Denver, then in Texas and then again in Denver.  He had tried and tried to get a confession of some sort but had failed.  He decided to try once more and went to Ft. Collins to talk to Travis again.  Travis knew his jig was up and although he was not completely forthcoming in the interview, he did agree that if some provisions were made he was willing to make a deal.  Remarkably one of his biggest concerns was that he was not labeled as a sex offender in jail.  He apparently knew enough about prison to know that people with that label had a harder time.  After some days of working things out and getting things official Travis admitted not only to the attack on Lydia but also to the murder of Kenia and agreed to show officers where her body was. Once again the dates get sketchy.  The discovery of Kenia's body apparently occurred on September 7th (which gives some credence that Travis was arrested in August and not July) in a field in which Travis had buried her and officially identified the following day in which Travis was immediately charged with murder.

Travis Forbes agreed to plead guilty on all the charges he was facing.  It was not completely as simple, or as quick as it sounds though considering he was dealing with two different police departments.  For his plea in Kenia's case he was given an automatic sentence of life without the possibility of parole.  In Lydia's case he was given a 48 year sentence.  It seems that in Colorado "life" means life as their Department of Corrections website does not indicate any possible date of release, meaning Travis Forbes will never see the outside a prison... well barring an escape I suppose.  It seems that not only has Travis accepted his fate but also seems to understand there is "evil" in him and refers to himself as a "monster." He claims that he has no idea what motivated him to commit his crimes.  At some point he seemed to indicate to the Denver officer that there were possibly many more victims but later, although he did not elaborate, stated there was only one "a long, long time ago." Personally I do not believe this.  The two crimes in which he did confess to were massively vicious.  Not only does it seem unlikely that Kenia was his first, or even his second victim it also seems nearly just as likely that he waited long periods of time between them.  

After spending five weeks in a medically induced coma Lydia Tillman would wake up without the ability to speak.  The stroke, that was apparently caused by trauma to her brain that she received during her attack had affected not only her entire body but her speech also.  Her jaw had been also shattered in the attack making it even more difficult.  She eventually had to learn to speak again among other things. She wrote a letter to be read at Travis' sentencing hearing in her case expressing that she had forgiven him for his actions.  She would later say that while of course she had been angered she had decided holding on to that did her more damage and prevented her progress.  She was on the Dateline episode I watched and it was so sad, yet exciting, to see her try and speak to the reporter.  You could tell that she had great difficultly not just in speaking but putting her words together.  Doctor's have said it was her will and determination that not only allowed her to survive but to progress as she has done. I have to agree... it is truly amazing!!


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