Tenant learns through documentary that house was once a serial killer’s torture chamber

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) -- It sounds like a made-for-TV movie, but instead it's a real-life nightmare for one St. Louis woman.

It's a typical North County ranch house on a tree-lined street.

Catrina McGhaw signed the lease without worry. Her section 8 voucher covered $810 in rent.

Until a family member told McGhaw to check out a cold case documentary about serial killers airing on the A&E network. McGhaw is living in the same Ferguson, Mo. house serial killer Maury Travis used as a torture chamber. The landlord even gave her the dining room table; the same one from the crime scene photos.

"When she showed us the house, she said you can have this table if you want," McGhaw said.

But it's what happened downstairs that freaks her out the most. That's where Travis recorded some of his crimes; at one point he sent the St. Louis Post Dispatch a map to identify victim 17. Some of the victims were tied to a pole in the basement.

"This whole basement was his torture chamber and it's not okay," she said.

McGhaw called her landlord, begging to get out of the lease, but the landlord wasn't sympathetic.

Turns out the landlord is the killer's mom.

"She said, 'no you signed a lease you need to stay there until the lease is up.'''

News 4 called Travis' mother; she claims she told McGhaw about the home's dark past. McGhaw says that's not true, she would have remembered the people murdered in the basement part.

A local agent said murders, suicides and violent crimes don't require disclosure - only material defects need to be noted.

Although News 4 couldn't get Travis' mom to budge, the St. Louis Housing Authority did. McGhaw says she will be moving at the end of July, which can't come soon enough.

She says things keep getting weirder, and can't stop thinking about an incident with a two-year-old relative that was playing in the basement near the pole where Travis tied up his victims.

"She looked over and she was like she's scared like she saw somebody scared and crying and nobody was there, nobody there," McGhaw recalled.

It's not clear how many woman Maury Travis murdered. He killed himself in the St. Louis County Jail in 2002.

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  • Mark

    I just have a question. Not sure if you can clear this up, but I’m lazy and figured it’d be worth half a shot.

    I am not from Missouri, but I am curious as to how the tenant in the video is able to collect $810.00 per month for rent with her owing nothing, and a $37.00 monthly utility allowance on top of that. I feel like that should be the real story here. How does someone complain about a home they are living in for free?

    I understand a little about the section 8 process and understand some of the basics, but why is she able to live in a house nicer than mine with nicer belongings than I have without paying a dime? I haven’t collected a dollar of government benefits (aside from what I earn as a civil servant), my loan payments have always been on time, and I have never racked up any credit card debt. Clearly something is amiss with this,

    I thought they kept section 8 housing and HUD properties in housing projects, cheap efficiency apartments and undesirable living arrangements. Hence justifying why we are paying for them to live for free. $810.00 is actually higher than the average monthly mortgage payment in Missouri from what I could find.

    Sorry for griping.


    • Gary Abosch

      Totally agree that she shouldn’t be complaining with her freebie. I suppose she thinks she’s entitled to live in the White House as well. Get over it lady. Bad things happen everywhere. Cleanse the house with sage, a priest or something and forget about it.

  • Ree

    Who cares about this story. My question is, what kind of disability does she have.. Why are we paying $810 towards her rent. I work my but off and still struggle. What is her hustle… How can i scam the system also…

  • sara

    There is something intrinsically wrong with a free ‘safety net’ that provides a higher quality of living than a 40-hour/week job could pay for. No wonder there is no incentive for many who are physically and mentally able to provide for themselves to begin doing so. To do so would mean a significant step down in quality of life. Life is sweeter on the government dime…why not stay??

  • Ms. Jones

    Don’t blame the Section 8 tenants blame the landlords who puts their “luxurious” property on Section 8. Who prefer guaranteed rent money that is paid on time to them and not renting to non Section 8 tenants, who may have a hard time paying for rent. I’m on Section 8 and I pay close to $700 monthly rent and been on my job for 6 years. Sometimes, people get down and out and need help from the “system” for different reasons. Luckily, I am able to get off the program at the end of the month. I’m not scamming anyone. I pay taxes and etc. Sometimes, it take others to get back on their feet then some. Don’t judge because you never know when you will need some type of help. Be grateful that we can turn to the “system” for any kind of help. Some countries can’t even turn to the “system” for help.

    • CJ

      And then they build a new house and people would complain that it was the “site” of a torture house. Also, who the heck are you to tell someone to destroy one of their assets? Insurance isn’t going to cover rebuilding a house cuz you don’t like the fact people were killed in it.

  • Miranda Grim

    I love how this became a discussion about Section 8 lol. I have to admit…I had the same question though. I don’t think she should be forced to live in a serial killer’s former home with his MOTHER as her landlord though. I think that’s a little much. That’s worse than Bates Motel!

    All I can ever think about when I read how much money some people receive in living assistance…Section 8, welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, etc…is how my family and I were denied all of that when we needed help the most. My husband and I have been married for 15 years and we have 3 children. Early on, times were tough. We worked hard and could barely make ends meet. Since we (as tax payers) have paid into these programs since we were 15, I was not ashamed to ask for help when we needed it. Because I knew we wouldn’t need it forever and I thought that’s what it was for. I was very wrong. And you wouldn’t believe what I was told…the first, most shocking thing was that if I wasn’t married I could get all of it, and more I had more kids, and even more if they for some reason had different fathers who did not pay child support. One agency even suggested that if I said I was separated from my husband and claimed he abandoned the family, we could get help. Um, whaaaat? Why in the world would I even damage his reputation that way? He’s been nothing but a good father and loyal husband…that’s worth way more to me than their money. I eventually gave up. We’re okay now, but I’ll never forget how were treated. The more you try to do right by society, the less interest it has in helping you out. The most irresponsible people are the ones who get the most help…not the people who are actually trying in life. That’s so backward.

    • gigi

      Yes, things surely are “backwards.” For instance, when we worked a lot w/the public, they were never treated as poorly as I’ve experienced myself. BTW, that $810 spoken of as all being given to her … I would guess that the “total rent amount” is what was spoken of, tho’ it doesn’t say that. I’ve heard/read that a voucher where a person’s rent was subsidized by less than $300 is called a $600+ voucher b/c 30% of that person’s OWN income added to the less than $300 subsidized adds up to that. So, it seems there’s some misrepresentation here regarding amounts.

  • JenLamb35

    Why are my tax dollars paying for her housing and she has bigger TVs and nicer furniture than I do?????? She has a free house – the bodies aren’t there – What’s her beef? I think the bigger story is WHY DOES SHE GET FREE HOUSING?????????

  • n_slash_a

    I think the real story is the free $810 rent, while having 2 TVs that are bigger than mine, along with multiple couches and nice chairs. Why should I be working my butt off to be paying for your free stuff?

    Also, “Let the buyer beware”. She signed the contract. She is responsible for fulfilling the contract. Buyer’s remorse is not a legal reason for breaking the contract. If you don’t like it, THEN PAY FOR IT YOURSELF!

  • June

    If you think $810 is a lot of money to give to this woman for rent, just think of how much she gets in food stamps an tax credits. The $810/mo is a drop in the bucket compared to what she really gets in a year’s time.

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