" For the people that knew me, I have to say, remember me please. Remember me as I was, not the monster I became. I'm sorry."
It was the 1st of April 2011. A Friday. That night, Kenia went out with some friends to a nightclub in Denver, Colorado, United States. Kenia had lived in the US for seven years. She moved there with her family from Honduras and had settled in well. The nineteen year old had graduated from High School the previous June.
That night, Kenia met up with two friends. They reserved a table at a trendy lounge bar and were looking forward to a night of dancing. After a few hours, Kenia left the table to go to the bathroom. She left her purse and phone at the table with her friends. She never returned.
For whatever reason, reasons unbeknown to her friends, Kenia left the nightclub alone.
Kenia did not make it home and her friends returned her phone and purse to her family. Kenia's step father,Tony Lee, found a text message from a man called Travis on Kenia's phone. It read:
"Hey this is Travis, the guy who gave you a ride last night. - white creepy van.:) did you get home okay?"
This led police to a man called Travis Forbes. Police discovered Kenia had been at a gas station with Travis at about 3 am. Travis was from the area. He worked in a bakery and was an entrepreneur. He sold gluten free granola bars.
Travis told police that he met Kenia outside a nightclub that night, the 1st April. She was intoxicated so he offered her a lift home. He also gave a man a lift home that night and had dropped the man off first. Kenia wanted a cigarette so that was why he stopped at the gas station. He told police that when they were at the gas station, Kenia struck up a conversation with another man who was outside smoking and the two of them walked off. He said that he wasn't alarmed as the man looked clean shaven.
Police were not entirely convinced by his version of events. They looked at his van and there was a strong smell of bleach and new carpet had been put into the van. They also discovered he was on probation for domestic violence. Further investigation revealed the gas station was closed at the time he was supposed to be there with Kenia. Even though they believed that Travis was not telling the full story, they had nothing to hold him on. They needed something else.
Police looked at the surveillance footage from the bakery where Travis worked. At this point, Kenia was still missing and their priority was to find her.
The tapes revealed that the night after Kenia disappeared,Travis entered the bakery owner's office and unplugged the surveillance system. But he was picked up on another camera. It captured him bringing in a cooler and putting it inside a freezer. He was also seen on camera holding rags and bleach.
Surveillance Footage of Travis with the cooler
Police began building their case against him but they still did not know what happened to Kenia or where she was.
As police were building their case, a woman was savagely attacked in the area. Thirty year old Lydia Tillman went to a fireworks celebration for the 4th of July in Fort Collins, Colorado. A man, a complete stranger to her, sexually assaulted her in her own apartment and savagely beat her. He hit her with such force that her jaw was shattered. She was strangled and left for dead. That same stranger poured bleach on her body and throughout her apartment and started a fire.
Somehow, Lydia managed to jump out of her second-story window. An ambulance had just arrived at the scene. Lydia suffered a stroke and was in a coma for over five weeks. When her father, Willy Tillman, got to the hospital, he did not even know it was his daughter. Her face was so badly swollen and black and blue. He knew it was her only from her tattoo on her leg.
The DNA from under Lydia's finger nails was tested and a match was found. It was a match for Travis Forbes. He was arrested on the 10th of July and when he was arrested, he was walking home with another woman near the Colorado State University campus.
Travis told police that he would tell them everything if he could carry out his prison sentence without being labeled a sex offender. He said that he saw Kenia walking in downtown Denver the night she went missing. He claimed she was intoxicated and upset so he offered her a lift home. When she was in the van, she passed out. He raped her. When Kenia regained consciousness and realised what happened she began to hit him and he strangled her. He then left her body in the back of his van for an entire day before hiding her body in a cooler which he left in the freezer at the bakery.
Travis removed Kenia's clothes and burned them and then buried Kenia's body under a small grove of trees in Keenesburg, about 40 miles outside of Denver. He showed police where her remains were.
Travis also confessed to the assault on Lydia. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Lydia and was given 48 years. He had agreed to plead guilty if Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty. They agreed.
Travis claimed he was full of remorse at his sentencing hearing. He repeatedly said that he did not intend to kill Kenia. That was a lie. We know this because after he raped, murdered and buried Kenia, he went out again and tried to do exactly the same thing to another woman. Lydia Tillman. After he sexually assaulted, abused and strangled Lydia , he set her apartment on fire, with the full intention and hope that she would die and there would be no evidence left behind. If he wasn't caught and sentenced to life without parole, there is little doubt that he would go on to attack other women.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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