20 YEARS IN THE MAKING
Police May Have Solved the 1999 Cold-Case Murder of Kassie Federer. And the Suspect Is Already on Death Row.
Two decades ago, a 19-year-old LSU student was murdered in her apartment. Now police believe they’ve found her killer.
After almost two decades, Baton Rouge police believe they have found the killer in the shooting death of 19-year-old student Kassie Federer: a man currently sitting on death row in Texas.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Warren Federer, the victim’s father, told The Daily Beast. “It’s a big burden off of us. We know he’s not going to be out there doing that to somebody else’s daughter.”
Authorities issued a warrant on Tuesday for 49-year-old Travis Green, alleging first-degree murder and aggravated burglary after matching his DNA to a glove that was left at the scene of the crime back in 1999, police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola Jr. told The Daily Beast.
“I want to thank everyone for their prayers and comments. I am still numb and don’t know how I will feel tomorrow,” Federer said. “My wife and I, Debby and her husband, our sons, and everyone else whose lives ever crossed paths with Kassie’s have waited a long time for some answers.”
Debby Durapau, her mother, said the breakthrough in the cold case was a relief and she was thankful to finally have some answers.
“I feel like this is closing this part, but nothing’s going to ever close the hole in my heart,” Durapau, a certified tobacco treatment specialist at LSU Health Sciences Center, told The Daily Beast. “I don’t know what closure is. This is something I don’t think I’ll ever come back from. I think of her every day.”
Louisiana State University psychology student Kassie Federer was found dead in her apartment on Sept. 13, 1999. The front door was still open.
Authorities alleged that her killer busted through the dead-bolted door after Kassie came home from school and chased her around the apartment before fatally shooting her in the heart and lungs.
“I know that she’s gone and that she’s not coming back, but just the thought that someone shot my daughter at the afternoon in her apartment is the hardest for me,” Debby, a mother of three said. “People say, ‘Oh, just wrong place.’ No, she was in the right place. That person came into her place.”
The college student was found by a building manager who called the police. Her fully-clothed body was next to a “portable phone” and her dog was still inside the bedroom with the lights on, authorities said.
“Nothing seemed out of place in her apartment. The only reason you could tell something had happened was two bullet holes in the wall,” Sgt. Coppola recalled, adding that Kassie’s backpack was also missing from the scene.
The Tuesday warrant revealed that DNA evidence was found inside a glove at the apartment, a clothing item that Kate Guidry, Kassie’s roommate, said belonged to neither of the women.
“Detectives [spoke] with the victim’s roommate and showed her a picture of the glove. She indicated that she did not recognize the glove and it was not something that she or the victim owned or used,” the warrant states.
Guidry, a fellow LSU student, met Federer that spring after the two were randomly assigned to room together. Both transfer students, the duo became fast friends, Guidry recalled in one of two America’s Most Wanted episodes about the cold case.
“I just remember her as being a really sweet girl but strong-willed,” Guidry said in the 2014 episode. “She would tell you what she thought but in a nice, kind way.”
On the day of the shooting, Guidry had left the apartment to run some errands, and returned to find emergency vehicles surrounding the complex, she recalled in the episode. At first, she didn’t believe it had anything to do with her—until other residents of the building started flocking to her.
“I think I remember them saying, ‘Is Kassie OK?’” Guidry said.
Turning to witnesses like Guidry for leads, detectives eventually zeroed in on their only suspect: Travis Green. The warrant states that Green was arrested on Sept. 16, 1999 for an unrelated charge, and that he had been interviewed and released by Houston authorities just three days before Kassie Federer was murdered.
In a second interview with police, Guidry denied knowing anyone or seeing anyone in the apartment that matched Green’s physical description. And when Baton Rouge police finally “secured a DNA swab” from Green in 2002 and sent it to Louisiana State Crime Lab, it yielded limited and inconclusive results. Sgt. Jared L. Sandifer confirmed to The Daily Beast that investigators tried again in 2014 to “obtain additional DNA information” but were left with the same results.
The break in the case occurred this August, however, when the FBI’s DNA database updated its search parameters to include about 17 million DNA profiles—including one from Green—resulting in what authorities believe to be conclusive evidence about the 1999 cold case.
The match with the FBI database allowed Baton Rouge detectives to obtain a new DNA swab from Green earlier this month, according to state police. And on Tuesday, the crime lab confirmed the match to the Texas death-row inmate.
Despite the new information, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III told The Daily Beast on that there are no immediate plans to prosecute Green.
“He has a death sentence; Texas is not going to release him,” Moore explained. “If by chance he were to ever be released then we would take him, but I do not anticipate that.”
This is the third murder that Green—currently awaiting execution in Livingston, Texas, for another slaying—has been connected to through DNA evidence, Coppola said, including the rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman in Houston that occurred only 11 days before Federer’s death in Louisiana. He was convicted and sentenced to death for that crime almost a year later.
More than a decade ago, Houston police also connected Green to the 1988 murder of Margaret McGinnis, an 82-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted and murdered in her West Houston home. Two decades after McGinnis’ July murder, the Houston police homicide division’s cold-case squad discovered a male-pattern DNA profile and entered it into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System.
“I don’t think he has feelings and he could never hurt the way we hurt,” Durapau said of Green.
According to the Texas Department of Corrections, Green has no scheduled execution date.
The unlikelihood of a trial is oddly comforting for Kassie Federer’s parents, as both admit they don’t know what they would do if they ever saw Travis Green in person.
“It’s all very overwhelming,” Federer said.