Man accused of killing mother, girlfriend expected to plead guilty

Travis Bonham (Knox County Jail)
Travis Bonham (Knox County Jail)

KNOX COUNTY, Ohio (WCMH) – A man accused of killing his mother and girlfriend in Knox County is now expected to plead guilty in a hearing on Monday.

Travis Bonham, 31, faces two counts of aggravated murder with a gun specification and one count each of tampering with evidence, grand theft and having weapons while under disability.

Sandra Stelk and Jaime Barber were found shot to death on Sept. 29, 2015. Stelks’ car was missing and was found the next morning. Bonham remained on the run until he was arrested during a traffic stop in Licking County on Oct. 4.

Investigators said he admitted to killing Stelk, his mother, and Barber, his girlfriend, while high on bath salts. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction website shows Bonham had gotten out of prison fewer than two months before, and Knox County court records show he was in prison for receiving stolen property.

A grand jury indicted Bonham for the murders on Oct. 26. Bonham originally entered not guilty pleas to all of the charges and a trial was set for May.

A court docket obtained by NBC4 shows an entry from March 18, in which a plea of guilty hearing is scheduled for Bonham on April 4 at 2 pm.

For Loren Barber, the father of 23-year-old Jaime, the news was a surprise.

He received a voicemail on March 18 at 11:32 am, in which a woman from the prosecutor’s office said, “Travis Bonham will be entering a guilty plea on April 4 at 2 pm. He will also be sentenced at that time.”

Barber said the last time he met with prosecutors, not long before receiving that voicemail, he was under the impression the case would still go to trial in May. He said he did not expect a plea deal.

“I certainly don’t want to see this man on the sidewalks of Mount Vernon when he can still pull a trigger,” Barber said.

Barber described his oldest child, his only daughter, as “upbeat” and “silly.” He said she had difficult teenage years and dated men who weren’t good for her. However, he said, she later got her G.E.D. and had a job lined up shortly before her death.

“She was too trusting of a person. This man was presenting himself as this kind guy who had made mistakes in the past, just like her,” Barber said.

From the time she was a child, Barber said Jaime had a heart for the underdog.

“If it was a boy who was handicapped and couldn’t pick the basketball up to shoot it, she’s over there handing him the ball,” Barber said.

The Ohio statute for murder penalties notes that the penalty for aggravated murder is death or life in prison.

“We feel he should be life in prison,” Barber said. “He’s a danger. He’s not a danger to my daughter anymore. I’m doing this now for other people.”

NBC4 called the Knox County prosecutor Thursday to ask about the plea agreement, but he would not release any details before Monday’s hearing.

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