Ark. Woman Befriended Mom’s Killer Out of ‘Spiritual Obligation’ — and then He Murdered Her

Big-hearted, gregarious and always up for an adventure, Martha McKay surrounded herself with friends.

“There was something about her that people really loved,” her sister Katie Hutton tells PEOPLE. “She left an impression on people. She had that gift.”

McKay’s family and friends were devastated when she was killed on March 25, 2020, at Snowden House, the historic antebellum-style home on Horseshoe Lake, Arkansas, she bought from her family in 2004, restored and reopened as a luxury bed-and-breakfast.

McKay, 63, was found stabbed and bludgeoned to death at the top of the stairs, near a bag filled with her belongings, as well as a utility knife.

Authorities were shocked when they pulled the body of her killer out of the lake (he’d jumped in and drowned during a police chase): it was Travis Lewis, who’d been convicted at 17 for the horrific 1996 murders of her mother, Sally Snowden McKay, 75, and her cousin, Joseph “Lee” Baker, 52, a prominent Memphis blues guitarist.