California: The Fresno Bee, Saturday, March 8, 2003

Man gets 15 to life in slaying of student

By Charles McCarthy

MADERA—A Fresno man received a sentence of 15 years to life Friday in the July 1997 murder of a Clovis college student.

Madera County Judge Thomas Bender sentenced Jacob Lee Travis, 33, after listening for about 90 minutes to family and friends of the victim, 20-year-old Andrea Mercedes Born.

"I know this was first-degree murder," the victim's mother, Gloria Barnes, told Bender in an emotional plea. "The autopsy reports that she drowned in her own blood."

Born's body was found the night of July 4, 1997, in a Madera County orchard near Highway 99 and Avenue 7. The California State University, Fresno, student had been shot twice in the head. Her body had been doused with gasoline and set afire.

Travis was arrested in March 2001 in a Seattle suburb by state and federal agents.

The sentencing hearing began with an 8-minute video presentation of the victim's life, including Born's performance as Peter Pan in a childhood school play. Travis, dressed in red jail overalls and shackled hand and foot, watched silently.

Following the video, Barnes, family members and friends, one after the other, advocated that Travis be imprisoned for life. Only Travis' mother called for early parole.

State prosecutor Catherine Tennant called for no parole. Justice would be served only if Travis is never released, she told Bender.

Travis' mother, Juanita, disagreed. Even "if" her son had killed Born, 15 years in prison was enough. "I'm hurting, too," Juanita Travis told the victim's mother.

Barnes, a Santa Cruz County court clerk, said nonviolent criminals get life sentences under the state's Three Strikes law. She compared the impact of her daughter's murder with that of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"What does a person have to do to get a really just sentence?" Barnes asked.

Travis agreed earlier this year with state attorney general's prosecutors to a second-degree murder plea instead of facing trial for first-degree murder.

Bender said he had spent two hours the day before sentencing reading letters from family and friends of Born calling for nothing less than a life term. He noted that under the second-degree murder plea bargain, 15 years to life is the maximum term he could impose.

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

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