1/8/10 – Death sentence commuted to life without
Case Facts: Travis Glass was convicted of murdering thirteen year old Steffini Wilkins while in the process of kidnapping her. Steffini was the daughter of Elizabeth Campbell, who owned and ran a tavern in Hannibal called “Ole Milts.” In March 2001, Campbell hired Glass as a bartender. During his employment, Glass went to Campbell’s home, also in Hannibal, on at least three occasions. There were also occasions when Steffini would visit the bar during the day where Glass would talk to her and joke around with her. Once he called her a “hottie.” Glass also spoke with Steffini on the telephone. Approximately two weeks before Steffini’s murder, Campbell fired Glass.
On May 24, 2001, at 8:30 p.m., Campbell left for work and took her two younger sons to the babysitter while Steffini stayed home. That evening, Steffini talked with a friend on the phone from 10:40 p.m. until 11:15 or 11:30 p.m. Meanwhile, at Ole Milts, Campbell saw Glass drinking beer. When he got up to leave, she told him to be sure to take his belongings that were behind the bar. Glass responded that he had his things and then turned to leave. Before exiting, he looked Campbell in the eye, gave her a “very snide sneer,” and walked out the door.
Glass left the bar in his car, a black Oldsmobile, between 11:10 and 11:15 p.m. Around 11:30, Campbell’s neighbor returned from work to his home and noticed a black Oldsmobile parked in front of Campbell’s house.
Around 1:00 a.m., May 25, 2001, Michael King awoke to the sound of Glass honking his car horn and flashing his headlights into King’s bedroom. King and Glass were friends, so he got dressed and went outside. When King got to the car, Glass asked King if he hated him. King got into the passenger side of the car, and they sat in King’s driveway smoking cigarettes and talking for about two hours.
During this time, King noticed Glass was dirty and muddy. King also noticed a mark or injury on the palm of Glass’s hand. Before Glass left, he asked King to replace a fuse in the trunk. As he was working under the hood, King found a size D “flashlight battery” next to the windshield wipers.
When Campbell came home from work around 3:00 a.m., she did not find Steffini in her room. Campbell checked the other rooms, but Steffini was not in the house. After making several calls to friends and family, Campbell contacted the police. Sergeant Michael Lawzano of the Hannibal Police was assigned to investigate Steffini’s disappearance.
During the early morning hours of May 25, 2001, a fisherman spotted a female body on the Indian Access Road at the Salt River campground in Ralls County. The nude body, later identified as the body of Steffini Wilkins, was lying face down in the grass with her head turned to the right. The fisherman contacted law enforcement, and an ambulance was called to the scene. Shortly thereafter, the coroner arrived, examined Steffini’s body, and determined she was deceased.
The coroner ruled the cause of death as asphyxiation secondary to compression of the neck by a ligature. An injury of this type requires continued pressure to cause death over a period of time, with 30 to 40 seconds to lose consciousness and from two to three minutes to cause brain death.
Corporal David Hall, a criminal investigator for the Missouri Highway Patrol, examined the scene and seized hairs found on Steffini’s back. Other officers found a piece of bra strap up the roadway and noted several impressions in the mud near Steffini’s body. The officers also discovered several pieces of a broken flashlight in the parking lot and driveway area.
Sergeant Lawzano was also called to the scene. While Lawzano was investigating the scene at the Indian Camp Access area, his detectives were sent to Campbell’s home, where they learned from Campbell’s neighbor that he had seen a black Oldsmobile at Campbell’s home the night before. Campbell informed the officers that Glass was the only person she knew who drove a black Oldsmobile. After checking motor vehicle records, Lawzano confirmed that a 1996 black Oldsmobile was registered to Travis Glass.
Sometime before noon on May 25, 2001, Lawzano and Trooper Scott Miller went to Glass’s home where they saw a 1996 black Oldsmobile parked in the driveway. When they arrived at the house, Glass’s grandparents and uncle were outside, and the officers asked to speak to Glass.
Glass came outside to speak with them, and Lawzano asked Glass if he had any information about Steffini’s disappearance. Glass denied knowing anything about it, so Lawzano asked him if he had been to her house. Glass denied having been there and gave an account of his whereabouts from the night before.
Lawzano asked Glass about the clothes he had been wearing the night before, and Glass told him they were inside in the washer. Lawzano asked Glass if he would show him the clothes, which he did. Another officer later observed that there was a lot of sand on the clothes and in the bottom of the washing machine.
At 11:25 a.m., Lawzano asked for and received consent from Glass to search his car. Lawzano observed what he felt were signs of a struggle on the hood and trunk of the car. He saw “very distinct” mud smears that appeared to come from small fingers being dragged across the trunk of the car. Lawzano asked Glass how the mud got on the car, and Glass responded that he did not know. Lawzano seized hairs that were on the hood and trunk of the car. At some point that day, officers seized a pair of blue jeans from the back of the car. Also, what was later confirmed to be Steffini’s blood was found on the back of the front license plate and exterior of the car.