California: The Fresno Bee, Friday, March 23, 2001

Arrest made in 1997 murder

Fresno State student's ex-boyfriend in charged with her slaying.

By Charles Mcarthy
The Fresno Bee

MADERA—For nearly four years, detectives pursued the killer of Andrea "Annie" Mercedes Born, a Fresno State college student who was shot in the head, burned and dumped in a Madera County orchard.

On Thursday, her boyfriend at the time of her death, Jacob Lee Travis, 31, was charged with her July 4, 1997 murder.

State and FBI task force officers arrested Travis, of Fresno, Monday in the Seattle suburb of Des Moines. He is being held in the Madera County Jail on $1 million bail.

Madera County Sheriff John Anderson revealed a few details of the slaying at a news conference Thursday but declined to specify which events led to the arrest. He indicated a stolen car provided incriminating evidence.

"It's our belief that the homicide probably was committed in Fresno County," the sheriff said without elaborating.

Travis was questioned early in the case but never arrested, Anderson said. "Investigators just couldn't get enough evidence to sustain a complaint," he said.

Travis remained in the Fresno area during much of the investigation "until earlier this month," Anderson said.

Born, 20, was discovered dead July 4, 1997, in a Madera County orchard just north of the San Joaquin River. Two California Highway Patrol officers in the area reported seeing smoke, which led them to the orchard.

The CHP officers thought they might find a stolen car, stripped and burned. Instead they found a body later identified through dental records as Born, who was living in Clovis. She had been shot in the head at close range.

State authorities were brought into the case in 1999 because Madera County didn't have the resources for a wide-ranging investigation.

A $50,000 reward offered in 1999 by Gov. Davis and a billboard on Freeway 99 in Fresno also netted no viable clues.

As the case grew colder each year, the state Department of Justice decided to take another look at a stolen car linked to the murder. Travis' prints were found on the car, investigators said.

Anderson said investigators suspect that one or more people in addition to Travis were at the scene when the body was dumped in the orchard, had flammable liquid poured on it and was set ablaze.

Anyone with information should call the confidential Crime Stoppers hot line at (559) 498-STOP.

Efforts to speak with Travis' family were unsuccessful.

On Thursday, he pleaded not guilty at his arraignment to a single charge of first-degree murder.

His next court hearing is March 29 in Madera.

Because of the involvement of multiple jurisdictions in the case, the state Attorney General's Office will prosecute it, Madera County District Attorney Ernie LiCalsi said.

Family and friends said Born had dated Travis for about a year, but was trying to part ways with him shortly before her death.

"I told her she should stay away from him," the victim's mother, Gloria Barnes, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel after learning of Travis' arrest. "She said she wanted to try to be friends with him."

Instead of feeling joy about the arrest, Barnes said she cried when she heard Travis was the suspect.

He was "somebody Born loved," Barnes said.

Barnes' former husband and the victim's father, Ed Born-Long, told The Sentinel, "I hope Travis spends the rest of his life in jail, but I'm not filled with hatred. I'm full of good memories of the daughter I lost."

The arrest brought relief to her friends at a Food 4 Less in Fresno, where Born had worked.

"Because it had gone unsolved for so long, we were concerned," said Denise Wilbon, one of the store's managers. "But we knew her parents were determined to find the person who killed her."

Born had moved from Santa Cruz to attend California State University, Fresno, where she studied to be a special-education teacher.

Wilbon described Born as outgoing and friendly.

She and Born used to go to nightclubs and dance, Wilbon said.

When Born was dating Travis, he would come to the store. Wilbon described him as "quiet, sort of standoffish."

Because of Born's love of Travis, Barnes told The Sentinel, "I know it would hurt Annie to know that he would do this to her. She never really wanted to think that anybody was bad."

The Crime Home
The Crime Home
Previous article
Go back to previous article
Next article
Read the next article