Travis Forbes, who is serving a life sentence for Monge’s murder, escaped the death penalty by pleading guilty and leading investigators to Monge’s body. She was buried in a shallow grave about 40 miles from Denver. Her family was finally able to hold a funeral service and bury her remains following a painstaking search by investigators, family and friends.
Monge’s story is airing on Dateline Friday, July 3, on NBC at 9 p.m. EST.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Travis Forbes Was Identified as a Suspect in her Disappearance When Her Stepdad Found a Text on Her Phone
— Dateline NBC (@DatelineNBC) July 4, 2020
Kenia Monge was out drinking with friends on April 1, 2011, when she wandered away from the group. She was intoxicated, and left behind her phone, purse, and keys. Her family and had not heard from her when her friends brought her belongings to her stepfather, Tony Lee. On her phone, he found a text message from a man named Travis, called him, and set up a meeting, according to The Denver Post.
Forbes, Lee and a Denver Police officer met at a gas station the next day. Forbes claimed he gave Monge a ride, and she was upset. He taught her breathing exercises, he told them, and watched her leave with another man from a closed gas station.
On April 5, Denver police Detective Nash Gurule, with the Missing and Exploited Persons Unit, was assigned to the case. She recovered suspicious surveillance footage, and brought Forbes in for more questioning. He repeated the same story again.
“I didn’t believe him,” Gurule told The Post. “Why would you take a girl to a closed Conoco? From across the river, you can see the Conoco is closed.”
2. Surveillance Footage at Forbes’ Bakery Showed Him With a Cooler & Bleach
Lydia Tillman & Kenia Monge Forever Connected By Murderer Travis Forbes https://t.co/iM2BcaRFkE
— QNewsHub (@qnewshub) July 4, 2020
Travis Forbes worked at a bakery in Denver, Colorado, where he made organic granola bars. Investigators searching for Kenia Monge recovered surveillance footage from the bakery. He shut the cameras off, but not before he was recorded acting suspiciously.
The surveillance footage showed Forbes roll a large, white cooler into the bakery’s freezer, then carry a roll of carpet from his van. He later walked out to the van carrying what appeared to be a bottle of bleach, and then turned off the cameras, according to The Denver Post.
Denver homicide Detective Louis Estrada was brought in to assist in the case of Monge’s disappearance, if it would turn out to be a homicide. She told The Post she immediately recognized the case as a homicide.
“Every time he talks, he has something to cover up,” Estrada said of Forbes. “He knew what he was doing. He had a story and an excuse for everything.”
3. An Autopsy Could Not Determine Kenia Monge’s Cause of Death Due to Decomposition
For #tbt, check out Episode 18 about 19-Year-old Kenia Monge. I spoke with Kenia’s parents about what they did to assist investigators with the case and what the punishment was for the man who senselessly killed her. https://t.co/9aCZt4NftI
— Court Junkie (@CourtJunkiePod) January 11, 2018
Kenia Monge’s cause of death was undetermined because her body was too badly decomposed to determine how she died. Monge’s remains were found in a shallow grave five months after she died, where she was dumped after Forbes raped and murdered her, according to The Denver Post. Monge wandered off from a group of friends April 1, 2011 and met up with Forbes. A text message led police to question him.
Monge’s stepdad, Tony Lee, believes Forbes attacked Monge after she passed out due to severe intoxication. Forbes told investigators he strangled Monge, and the autopsy could not rule out strangulation or asphyxiation, The Post reported.
“While the cause of death remains undetermined, the manner is ruled a homicide,” the autopsy report said.
It further indicated Monge’s feet were skeletonized and parts of her body were moderately or severely decomposed.
4. Travis Forbes Avoided the Death Sentence By Pleading Guilty & Was Sentenced to Life in Prison
— Dateline NBC (@DatelineNBC) July 4, 2020
Travis Forbes was sentenced to life in prison in the abduction and murder of Kenia Monge. She disappeared April 1, 2011 after a night out with friends and encountered Forbes while highly intoxicated. She did not have her purse, keys or cell phone. Monge was convicted of raping and murdering Monge and burying her body in a shallow grave. He avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty, and was sentenced to life in prison, according to 9 News.
On September 7, 2011, Forbes took investigators to the exact spot where he buried Monge. She was found in a shallow grave in Weld County, buried under a cottonwood tree near Keenesburg, about 40 miles from Denver.
He was also sentenced to 48 years in prison in the attempted murder of Lydia Tillman. She was in a coma for five months after being sexually assaulted, strangled and doused in bleach, according to ABC News.
“I’m tough,” Tillman told ABC News.
5. Kenia Monge Was Buried in Denver After a 5-Month Search for Her Remains
— Dateline NBC (@DatelineNBC) July 3, 2020
After five months of searching, the body of Kenia Monge was finally recovered. Her family held a funeral service on September 16, 2011, more than five months after she disappeared following a night out with friends on April 1, 2011. Her service was held at Pastor of Glory to Glory Christian Center in Aurora, Colorado, and she was buried at Hampden Garden Cemetery in Denver, Colorado, according to Find a Grave.
“Kenia Monge went missing after a night out with friends on April 1, 2011. She was abducted and murdered and her remains were found after five months of intense searching. She is survived by her mother, step-father, siblings and many family and friends,” her memorial on Find a Grave says. “A funeral service was held for Kenia on Friday, September 16, 2011 at Pastor of Glory to Glory Christian Center, 1620 S. Abilene St. Aurora. Burial was followed at Hampden Garden Cemetery, 8600 E. Hampden Ave. Denver.”
Her grave is inscribed in both English and Spanish.
“I will love you always and forever. Love you, Dad,” it says. “Loving daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, aunt.”