Who Killed 22-Year-Old Jennifer Servo?

Jennifer Servo reporting
youtube | Lamont At Large

News & Politics
Gabby Etzel

In 2002, a 22-year-old girl with a future as bright as her blue eyes came to an abrupt end when she was murdered in her Abilene, Texas apartment.

About the investigation surrounding her daughter’s death, Jennifer Servo’s mother said, “Police stopped calling years ago.”

As heart-wrenching as that statement is, it is unfortunately very true. Police hit a dead end with Jennifer’s murder very early on in the investigation, as they were unable to find incriminating evidence against the two potential suspects.

The frustrating circumstances of Jennifer’s death leave behind a slew of questions about what happened to the rising journalist on September 16, 2002.

Who Was Jennifer Servo?

Jennifer Servo poses in a jean jacket outdoors
youtube | Stephanie Harlowe

Montana native Jennifer Servo could often be heard equating herself to a character in her favorite show, Lisa Simpson. She was a bright and sweet young girl, yet unstoppably ambitious. She played the sax just as the character does, and like Lisa in one episode of The Simpsons, she realized her true calling in her youth: she would become a news reporter.

Unlike Lisa Simpson, though, Jennifer Servo was a very real person who deserved all of the time in the world to bring that dream to life.

Jennifer Servo’s high school years established her as the talented writer that she was, but it was her time studying journalism at the University of Montana that really allowed her to blossom as an up-and-coming journalist.

Immediately after graduation, news stations could not wait to get Jennifer in front of their cameras as a reporter. KRBC, a small station in Abilene, Texas, was lucky enough to win Jennifer over. She packed her bags and moved into a comfortable apartment that was an easy commute to KRBC.

Everyone at Jennifer’s new job immediately took a liking to her. In fact, it was difficult not to. Just about every single person who knew Jennifer described her as a vibrant and lovable young woman who radiated a very special light.

In September of 2002, just six months after she took her first official step into her career, Jennifer Servo’s light was extinguished.

The Night Of Jennifer's Murder

Jennifer Servo reporting
youtube | Lamont At Large

On the night of September 15, Jennifer Servo left work late. Around 10 pm, she headed to the grocery store with her co-worker and friend, a weatherman named Brian Travers, before coming back to her apartment.

Once she was home, Jennifer settled in and made a phone call to her ex-boyfriend, Dave Warren. The two spoke fairly regularly, so nothing was out of the ordinary with this 12:30 am call. Warren was confirmed to still be across the country in his Montana home.

According to Warren, nothing seemed to be wrong throughout the entirety of their conversation. However, sometime after the two said their goodbyes around 1:30 am, the unimaginable happened.

Jennifer actually had the next few days off of work. Due to a shortage at the station the next day, though, her boss decided to give her a call to see if she would be willing to come in. When there was no answer and no attempt to return his call, he became a bit worried.

Jennifer’s mother attempted to contact her, as well. Once again, there was no response. It was not like Jennifer at all to ignore phone calls, especially not from her mom.

A few employees at KRBC took a trip to her apartment to see if they could catch a glimpse of their coworker. They found that her blinds were shut, which was strange–She preferred to keep them open so that her cat, Mr. Binx, could look out the window.

Her boss was the one to call the police for a wellness check. It was a few hours later that Jennifer’s coworkers at the station heard the news. There were several police cars arriving at her apartment in response to a DOA (Dead On Arrival).

Jennifer Servo was found dead in her apartment. She had been sexually assaulted, strangled, and there was evidence of blunt force trauma to her head.

Her phone and her purse were gone, and there was no murder weapon left on the scene.

What’s more, there was no sign of forced entry. Jennifer was a stickler for safety, and she would not have let just anyone into her apartment so late at night. This led police to come to the conclusion that she must have known her killer personally.

That is about as far as they could get. DNA found in her apartment was all but useless considering every suspect was close to her and had been inside of her apartment. Hair samples mingled with that of Mr. Binx and there were no witnesses. Altogether, the results of the investigation were frustratingly inconclusive.

Still, there are two main suspects that many still believe may have been responsible for Jennifer Servo’s murder: Brian Travers and Ralph Sepulveda.

Who Is Brian Travers?

The KRBC news station
youtube | Lamont At Large

Brian Travers is the last person to have seen Jennifer Servo, and one of the first people to grieve her. Upon learning of her death, he immediately reached out to her family members to express his condolences.

See, Brian and Jennifer were more than just co-workers and grocery store buddies. They were friends. There was some degree of intimacy between the two of them at some point, and while Brian had apparently wanted something more, Jennifer confided to her friends that she was not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship.

Of course, when Servo died, the police called in Brian to speak with him. After all, he was the last one that Jennifer was with while she was alive and authorities wanted to know exactly what she was doing and how she was acting before her death.

Brian’s parents called in an attorney before he spoke with the police, likely just to cover his bases. Although, since the questioning was fairly casual and non-accusatory, police saw this as a red flag, and decided that he may just be a suspect despite Jennifer's friends insisting that Brian seemed like a sweet guy.

He kept his story straight. He and Jennifer had left for the grocery store in her car, and she had dropped him off and helped him carry in his groceries before going home herself.

Of course, given his relationship with Jennifer, Brian’s DNA was all over the apartment. This was nothing out of the ordinary, but something that Brian confessed after over a week of questioning was definitely strange.

Apparently, it took Brian a week to recall that Jennifer had said that she felt like she was being followed. On the night of her death, she told Brian that it seems like there was a car trailing them and following their every move.

Why had it taken a week for Brian to give this piece of information to the police?

Authorities were suspicious, but all in all, there were no grounds to persecute Brian Travers.

Who Is Ralph Sepulveda?

Ralph Suppelveda and Jennifer Servo
youtube | Lamont At Large

Before Jennifer went to college, she joined the army reserves in order to pay for her education. It was there that she met her ex-boyfriend, Ralph Sepulveda.

Being twelve years her senior, Jennifer’s family never liked Ralph. They characterized him as obsessive and jealous. Still, Jennifer kept him in her life to a degree that no one knew about until after her death.

When Jennifer decided to move to Abilene, Texas for work, Ralph had actually moved with her. He lived with her in her new apartment for several weeks before breaking some earth-shattering news to the 22-year-old.

Back in Montana, Ralph not only had a fiance, but he had a child.

Jennifer had never known this, and she was quick to break things off. She kicked him out of the apartment, and one would assume that he would run back to his fiance and baby in Montana.

However, this was not the case. Ralph moved into an apartment that was not too far from Jennifer’s.

There was no record of any contact between the two in the time leading up to Jennifer’s death. However, Jennifer had confided in her friends about something disturbing. Ralph’s sexual preferences made Jennifer extremely uncomfortable. To be specific, choking.

Now, his well-known jealousy and obsession combined with his refusal to leave Abilene and his preference for choking put him rather high on the list of suspects. After all, Jennifer’s autopsy had confirmed that she was strangled and assaulted.

Yet, Ralph cooperated with the police. He said that he had not seen her up to three weeks before her death. There was simply not enough non-circumstantial evidence–Not even when he fled to a military base in San Antonio after the questioning.

For someone who was supposedly so obsessed with her, Ralph Sepulveda expressed very little emotion about Jennifer’s death. He did not show up to the funeral, and he did not send condolences to her family.

Jennifer's Case Stays Cold

Private Investigator on Jennifer Servo's case stands with a photo of her graduation
youtube | BigCountryHomepage

Both Brian Travers and Ralph Sepulveda were cleared due to a lack of evidence, but many still suspect Ralph to be the primary suspect.

It is hard to imagine just how frustrating and harrowing this must be for Jennifer’s family, who still have no answers to this day.

However, in January of 2003, some compelling information arose. Jennifer had been gone for over four months, and yet, the library at the University of Montana contacted her family to let them know that Jennifer’s account had been used to check out four different books.

Jennifer’s library card had been in her purse, which was missing from the scene of her death.

Could it have been her killer that used her library card?

The police did not seem to think so. They believed that a mere clerical error must have been responsible for all four of the books, and they did not look into it any further.

Jennifer Servo’s case is cold, but the fire in her soul lives on. The University of Montana issues a prestigious award in her honor to a female graduate every year who shows a tremendous amount of heart and potential in the field of journalism.

Anyone with information pertaining to Jennifer Servo's death should call the Abilene Crime Stoppers at (325)676-8477.