California: The Fresno Bee, Saturday, April 6, 2002

Fresno man to stand trial in murder case

By Charles Mcarthy
The Fresno Bee

MADERA—A Madera County judge Friday ordered a Fresno man held for trial in the murder of Andrea Born, 20, whose burned body was found the night of July 4, 1997, in an orchard near Freeway 99 and Avenue 7.

After a preliminary evidence hearing, Judge Thomas L. Bender ordered Jacob Lee Travis, 32, to return to Madera County Superior Court May 10 for trial arraignment.

"We'll have our day," Travis' lawyer Eric Green of Fresno promised outside the courtroom. He said that preliminary hearings establish "probable cause only."

Travis was arrested in Washington state in February 2001 and returned to Madera where he is jailed. The preliminary hearing in Bender's courtroom was continued last month to clear up a question of witness immunity.

Traci Ann Tavares of Fresno testified Friday after Bender agreed with state Deputy Attorney General Jesse Witt's offer of immunity. Witt ensured that her Madera testimony wouldn't self-incriminate her in an upcoming Fresno County insurance fraud trial.

Tavares was arrested in May 2001 in Fresno. She was charged with insurance fraud in connection with the reported theft of her car July 8, 1997. Tavares is not charged in the Travis case, but the state Attorney General's Office is prosecuting both the Madera and Fresno cases.

Investigators testifying last month at the Madera hearing identified Tavares as the owner of the 1995 Nissan that officers reported they found in 2001 in a Lancaster garage.

It was alleged that the Nissan was used in the 1997 murder to drive the victim's body to the Madera County orchard where California Highway Patrol officers found the burned body.

Tavares testified that she and Travis were together July 8, 1997, when she reported the car missing from the Fashion Fair mall parking lot. She and Travis told mall security that the car "must have been stolen."

Pressed by Witt for details of the events of July 1997, Tavares frequently answered "I don't recall ... possibly ... not sure. ..."

She said Travis borrowed her car "all the time and picked me up all the time." She later testified "He's my kids' father and my boyfriend."

Green expects Travis to go to trial in Madera late this year or early in 2003. He said he is waiting for "an avalanche" of additional paperwork "coming my way" from the prosecution.

The reporter can be reached at cmccarthy@fresnobee.com or (559) 675-6804.

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