Details released on Mintz murder

Published 11:42 am Friday, July 22, 2011

Information has been released from a search warrant and probable cause documents regarding the crime scene and evidence found following the murder of Vanessa Mintz earlier this year.
Mintz was found shot to death on Feb. 19, 2011 at the Saluda Mountain Lodge, located off Holbert Cove Road. She was 53 at the time of her death. Her family owned the lodge at the time.
Mintz’ husband, Travis Lee McGraw, who was 44 at the time, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
McGraw will appear Monday, July 25 in Polk County Superior Court, but his case is not on the trial list. It is not known what matters will be handled next week, nor when the trial will be held.
According to the probable cause document, completed by N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) agent Steve Modlin, Modlin became aware that on Sat. Feb. 19, 2011 at approximately 9:28 a.m. Polk County sheriff’s officers were dispatched to the lodge in reference to a gunshot wound and possible robbery.
Officers searched the employee’s living quarters/office area and discovered an unresponsive white female lying in the bed, covered in blood, according to the documents.
Officers located a shotgun shell on the floor between the end of the bed and the entertainment center, according to the report. Members of the Polk sheriff’s office notified the SBI that a murder had occurred and secured the scene, the report said. It also said the Polk County Medical Examiner, Dr. Kornmayer, pronounced Mintz as deceased. The cause of death was head trauma, according to the medical examiner’s report.
Mintz was found by one of her daughters, official documents said. She told investigators when she arrived at approximately 9:15 a.m., Feb. 19, 2011 she heard the television on in the bedroom and noticed the blinds closed and the lights off, stated the report. The sign to the office area said, “closed,” according to the daughter.
“She walked into the living room area, set her purse and coffee down, and then walked into the bedroom,” stated the report. “She observed stuff on the wall and thought her mother had thrown up. (Daughter) shook her mother’s foot and knew when she touched her there was something not right. (Daughter) called 911.”
The report continued with details of how the daughter found wounds on her mother’s arm and head and called 911 again.
The daughter arrived at the lodge to relieve her mother and McGraw, both of whom were scheduled to work the night shift, according to the report.
McGraw was not at the lodge when the daughter arrived, nor was his vehicle, so the daughter called McGraw and advised him he needed to get to the lodge because something happened to Mintz, according to the SBI report. The report said McGraw was at the Cracker Barrel with his two children when Mintz’ daughter called him about Mintz’ death.
McGraw told investigators that he left the lodge at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, 2011, according to the report.
“Travis McGraw stated he gave Vanessa Mintz a hug and she had already changed into her pajamas,” stated the report.
Officers obtained written consent from McGraw to search his 2005 red Chevrolet pickup truck, the report said, and an officer found one unfired shotgun shell in the passenger side front door panel. The shell found in the lodge and the shell found in McGraw’s truck were the same brand, according to the report.
“These two shotgun shells were the same brand, had the same red color and had the same markings,” stated the report.
The report then details the execution of a search warrant of McGraw’s home, located at 41 Ransier Drive in Hendersonville, to collect firearms.
“Travis McGraw told (an SBI agent) he knew it was part of the process and agreed to go with law enforcement to get the guns,” stated the report.
Several firearms were obtained from McGraw’s residence, including two shotguns and one rifle from one room, two shotguns and one rifle from the basement and ammunition.
The report also detailed a relationship between McGraw and a woman, including text messages between the two on the weekend of the murder. The woman told investigators she did not know McGraw was married, but knew McGraw and Mintz were in a relationship, according to the report. The woman had given McGraw a deadline of Sunday, Feb. 20 for McGraw to “let her know where their relationship was going,” stated the SBI report. The report says the woman texted McGraw at approximately 1 p.m. on Sat., Feb. 19, 2011 and found out Mintz had been killed.
The report included detailed findings from the NCSBI Western Lab Firearms Section, which examined the four shotguns owned by Mintz. It was determined that the camouflage Mossberg shotgun fired the shell collected from the crime scene, according to the report.
McCraw was arrested on Feb. 23, 2011. On March 9, a judge found probable cause to charge McGraw with first-degree murder.
McGraw is currently being held at the N.C. Department of Corrections in Raleigh on no bond. He has written a couple of handwritten letters requesting a bond hearing while being incarcerated.
In one letter dated April 20, 2011, McGraw provided background information on himself, including that he is a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force. McGraw wrote that he served seven years of active duty and 13 years in the reserves.
“I have worked as a police officer,” wrote McGraw. “Due to an on the job injury I am totally and permanently disabled. I have been an assistant scout master. I have never been arrested before.”
McGraw also said he is the father of two teenagers and noted where they attend school and their activities. He also said because of the injuries that forced him into retirement, he needs to continue physical therapy.
“Being released on bond would also allow me to finish putting together attorney fees,” said McGraw’s letter.

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