A 48-year-old Lovingston, Virginia, man has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of a 17-year-old girl who was last seen leaving her home to go on a back-to-school shopping trip.
Randy Allen Taylor, 48, was arrested at his home on Sunday without incident and is facing a felony abduction by force charge in connection with the disappearance of Alexis Murphy who was last seen on August 3.
Taylor appeared in court Tuesday for an advisement hearing. He was appointed a public defender and remains at the Albermarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail without bond. He has not yet entered a plea.
HLN reached out to Taylor’s attorney, but calls were not returned.
“We continue to hope that Alexis will be found safe and return to her family,” Anthony Martin, Commonwealth Attorney for Nelson County, said at a news conference Monday. “Yesterday, with the arrest of Randy Allen Taylor, we made a significant step closer towards bringing her home.”
Alexis’ aunt Trina Murphy told HLN her niece left home around 6:50 p.m. that night to go shopping in Lynchburg.
“Her mom works the night shift and when she realized she hadn’t come home after she got off the next morning she went to police,” Trina Murphy said.
Alexis’ aunt said the last activity from Alexis’ cell phone was around 7 p.m. that night when her phone pinged off a tower in Nelson County.
Alexis’ mother Laura Ann Murphy told HLN her daughter’s cell phone has not been recovered, and said Alexis only had cash on her when she left her home that night.
“I kept calling her cell phone and it just kept going to her voicemail. And that’s not like her because she keeps her cell phone with her 24/7. She keeps it charged up. Wherever she goes, she keeps it charged,” Alexis’ mother said.
Surveillance images released by the FBI captured Alexis at a Lovingston gas station the night she was last seen.
WJLA reported a worker at the gas station said she saw Alexis talking with a man at the pump before she drove away.
Three days later, authorities found her white 2003 Nissan Maxima abandoned in a Charlottesville movie theatre parking lot.
Police say they are still working to create a timeline of the case, and are asking members of the public to call authorities with any information regarding Taylor prior to Alexis’ disappearance.
“This is an ongoing investigation and we will continue to follow outstanding leads in order to answer remaining questions in this manner,” Jeff Mazanec, the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Richmond, said at the news conference.
Mazanec also addressed the public’s renewed interest in the disappearance of another Virginia woman who vanished in September 2010, and the speculation surrounding a possible connection to Alexis’ case.
Samantha Clarke, 21, vanished during the late hours of September 13, 2010, from her home in the Town of Orange.
Police say Samantha’s last words to her brother were, “I’ll be back.” She was never seen again.
In light of Alexis’ disappearance, the Orange County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office release a press release Tuesday, ensuring the public that law enforcement has not forgotten about Samantha’s case.
“As Randy Taylor is someone that Samantha spoke with immediately prior to her disappearance, he remains someone we are very interested in learning more about,” the press release stated.
Taylor was never charged in connection with Samantha’s disappearance.
“I know there is some speculation that this case may be connected to some other disappearance or abduction in the region,” Mazanec said at the news conference. “We are certainly looking at all possibilities and information in this regard.”
“Our focus here today is to bring attention to Alexis’ disappearance,” Mazanec said.
Authorities have not elaborated on what led to Taylor’s arrest, but WSET reports investigators and search dogs were spotted at his home Wednesday.
“If anybody knows anything, please, please, let us know. Please,” Alexis’ mother said as she broke down in tears at the news conference Monday.
As the search for Alexis continues, investigators are requesting that anyone who may have encountered Taylor and/or seen his late-model GMC Suburban truck just prior to and since Alexis’ disappearance to contact police.
“It’s imperative that if you’ve seen something, you say something,” the FBI said in a press release.
Alexis Murphy is described as a black female, 5’7”, 156 lbs., with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a pink blouse, floral print (full-length) spandex pants, and brown boots and was carrying a dark and light-colored grey purse. Alexis has her right nostril and her left side of her upper-lip pierced.
Anyone with information regarding the case is urged to contact the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office at 434-263-7050.