In Travis' memory
By John Joyce
Published in News on November 18, 2012 1:50 AM
Photos of Travis Lancaster are scattered on his sister's coffee table. Lancaster was murdered on Linen Lane in Dudley Oct. 24. His murder remains unsolved.
Kristy Thompson, right, talks about her brother while her mother, Carolyn Lancaster, weeps as she remembers her son.
Photos cover the coffee table in Kristy Thompson's living room.
In every image, and in the stories that she tells to describe her brother, Travis Lancaster was full of life.
He worked three jobs, sometimes 16 hours a day, but could always find time for fun -- especially on the family's trips to the beach each Thanksgiving.
"Trav," as his family calls him, was the kind of guy who would tie a strand of seaweed around his head, pick up a piece of driftwood and ham it up for the camera.
But he won't be there this Thanksgiving, and his family will have to mark the holiday with memories.
All because of the one night he did not come home.
The Wayne County Sheriff's Office still does not know who killed Justin Travis Lancaster, 25, of 117 Moore Allen St. -- or why.
Deputies found him just past 11 p.m. on Oct. 24. lying in the middle of Linen Lane dead from a gunshot wound.
And that mystery of what happened to Travis is what haunts his family the most.
"It is definitely hard not to know," said Carolyn Lancaster, Travis' mother.
What she does know is that her son's last phone call came a few minutes before 11 p.m., the night he was killed. He told a friend he had a funny feeling, and if he wasn't heard from within the hour, to call the police.
That call would have come too late.
By 11:20 p.m., deputies were at Carolyn Lancaster's door notifying her that her son had been murdered.
"He had just got off work, probably around 10 o'clock," Mrs. Thompson said. She had no idea why her brother would have been in the Linen Lane area that night.
"Probably to see friends," she said. "Trav had a lot of friends."
The family has heard nothing since the murder. Sheriff's Office investigators have offered no clues as to what transpired that night -- and Travis' mother would like to know more and to hear more.
But most importantly, she and the rest of Travis' family want to make sure their loss does not become another unsolved crime and that the young man they knew is not forgotten.
A group of Travis' family and friends turned out this past weekend for a candlelight vigil -- at the time Travis died and in the neighborhood where he was found.
They plan to be there every few weeks until those responsible for their loved one's murder are apprehended.
And that is not all.
They have circulated more than 300 fliers in the Linen Lane area, each one featuring Travis' photo and a plea for anyone who knows something about his death to call Crime Stoppers.
They say they will not rest until they know about those hours before and after they lost a young man whom they said had already made a difference.
Travis was laid to rest Oct. 31 at a service attended by family and friends from as far south as Key West, Fla., and from as far north as New York.
"Everybody's life he touched, he left a mark. Travis never met a stranger," Mrs. Thompson said.
His mother described her son as "never without a smile, always being funny and making people laugh."
Even his customers came to the memorial services. Lancaster worked at Western Sizzlin and Longhorn Steakhouse. When he could, he helped his brother, Rick, with his construction company, Flatworks Concrete.
"He'd just bought his first car all by himself, without a co-signer," Mrs. Lancaster said.
It is hard for his sister to imagine those last moments when her brother was lying in the street without a friend, without a rescuer, without anyone to speak up for him.
She hopes that there is someone who will be there now.
"Somebody knows. If they're afraid or if they're protecting a friend or a relative, they need to come forward," she said.
For Travis' mother, it is hard to speak about the toughest parts of her day, about the things she would say to her son if she had just one more chance, about how hard it will be to go on without him.
But she takes some solace in the fact that he will remembered, not just by his family for his smile and sense of humor, but through the memories of his many friends and the connections he made in the community.
"He took a bus to Montana and worked for two weeks, just for the experience. He didn't know anybody there. That's just the kind of kid he was," Mrs. Lancaster said.
And as sad as she is, she feels, too, for the family of the man or men who murdered her son. She knows they will suffer, too.
For now the Lancaster family is focused on finding justice and remembering the son and brother of whom they were -- and are -- so proud.
And then there is the annual trip to the beach house.
Travis paid for his portion in advance this year.
Now he will only be there in spirit, hopefully, his sister said, helping the family bring in the fish.
"Travis had the casting net mastered, he could fling that thing out there and bring it up full of minnows and crabs and everything else," Mrs. Thompson said.
She will look for a sign as she and the rest of the family cast it in his place this year.
Just the thought brings a smile as she takes her mother's hand and looks back to those memories scattered across the table.
There will be tears, of course.
"We'll be there celebrating him," she said.