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Murder at Snowden House… again

Murder at Snowden House… again

Bizarre turn of events at Horseshoe Lake residence ends in death


Bizarre turn of events at Horseshoe Lake residence ends in death


An old adage about criminals returning to the scene of the crime completed a tragic full circle at the locally- famous Snowden House in Horseshoe Lake overnight Tuesday March 24. Sheriff Deputies responded to two alarms at the house. The first alarm deputies searched around the house and found no forced entry sign or vehicles. They answered the second call, but this time there was a car in the driveway and an open back door. As they moved inside to clear the mansion patrol officers flushed a suspect out of the house.

Officers said Travis Lewis jumped out an upstairs window and ran for his borrowed silver Volkswagen and tried driving away only to be stuck in the mud. Next, Lewis ran for the shore of Horseshoe Lake and tried to swim off and drowned. His body was located later with the help of sonar.

Upon Lewis going under, patrol officers immediately went back inside and found the body of Martha McKay. Her body was sent to the state medical examiner to determine exact cause of death, but there were apparent stab wounds.

Crittenden County Sheriff Mike Allen recounted the events.

“They answered one alarm and searched around the house and there were no signs of forced entry or vehicles at the house,” said Allen. “They checked into service and a few minutes later they got another call to the house, but this time there was a car in the driveway. Two deputies went in to clear the residence and they found a suspect inside who jumped out of a second story window. He ran to the car in the driveway and tried to take off and got stuck in the mud. At that point he jumped out of the car and ran toward the lake and tried to swim. He swam about 25 yards and went under and his body finally dragged out of the water by search and rescue later in the day. When he went under and didn’t come back up, the search of the house recommenced to make sure the house was secure; they found the victim deceased.”

The drowned man, Travis Lewis, had been arrested and convicted for the double murder, shooting Joseph “Lee” Baker, Jr. and his aunt Sally Snowden McKay, and setting fire to the same house in 1996 according to the sheriff. At that time Lewis was 16 years old.

The sheriff also reported the 1996 murder victim Sally McKay was Martha McKay’s mother.

See MURDER, page A3

The historic Snowden plantation house in Horseshoe Lake became a murder scene for the second time overnight Tuesday. Sheriff Deputies found the body of Martha McKay after answering alarm calls at the house. Her parents were murdered and the house burned in 1995. Police said it was the same perpetrator and he drowned trying to flee from officers.

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From page A1

Lewis was paroled in 2018 after serving a 20 years of 28.5 year sentence.

The sheriff had not yet determined the motive behind Lewis’ tragic late night Tuesday return to the Snowden House. Allen said Martha Mckay requested reopening of the case of her mother’s murder about nine years ago.

“Even in the case file there was speculation that there was somebody with Travis Lewis,” said Allen. “Because a witness reported seeing two people in the car leaving the scene back in ‘96. I talked to Martha McKay in 2011 and we tried to reopen that investigation. We worked a bunch of dead end leads, even went to the penitentiary and talked to Travis Lewis. Lewis indicated there was somebody with him, but we were never able to- (establish proof).”

Martha McKay owned and operated the Greek-Revival styled house as a hotel and special events center and offered wellness retreats. She was dubbed Lady of the Lake in a 2015 Memphis Magazine piece rewinding the storied history of life at the house and its revival as an event center.

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