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Alexis Murphy and a man left in separate cars after Randy Taylor bought drugs, his lawyer said.
ANDREW SHURTLEFF | The Daily Progress
A Virginia Department of Corrections officer uses a K-9 to search for missing Nelson County girl Alexis Murphy outside the home of suspect Randy Allen Taylor Wednesday in Lovingston.
PARKER MICHELS-BOYCE | The News & Advance
Virginia Department of Corrections K9 units comb the grounds at 10506 Thomas Nelson Highway in Lovingston on Wednesday.
ANDREW SHURTLEFF | The Daily Progress
Troy Brown, father of Alexis Murphy, talks about about his hope and a keeping a positive attitude during the search for his missing daughter Wednesday afternoon at her home in Shipman.
BARRETT MOHRMANN | The News & Advance
Authorities on Wednesday again converged on the residence of Randy Taylor off U.S. 29 in Nelson County, continuing the search for 17-year-old Alexis Murphy.
Randy Allen Taylor
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
On the evening Alexis Murphy went missing, she stood inside Randy Allen Taylor’s ramshackle camper while a man with her sipped Icehouse beer and smoked marijuana with Taylor, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Taylor, 48, didn’t know the man’s name but purchased $60 in marijuana from him, said Michael Hallahan, Taylor’s court-appointed attorney. Murphy, 17, neither smoked nor drank as the group talked, Hallahan said.
The Nelson County teen and the man left in separate cars before dark, Hallahan said. He never saw them again.
Eight days later, after finding a strand of Murphy’s hair in Taylor’s camper, authorities arrested him on an abduction charge, Hallahan said. He is being held without bond in Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail and faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted.
“We absolutely say that he is maintaining his innocence,” Hallahan said. “The evidence is very weak, from what I hear.”
Hallahan said the man police want is the one who sold his client marijuana —black, in his early 20s, wearing cornrows and driving a 1990s sedan with 22-inch rims.
“Finding a hair in the residence doesn’t mean he abducted her,” Hallahan said. “He told law enforcement that on Aug. 3, [Murphy] was in his residence, with a male associate.
“They’ve made no public efforts to try to locate this male,” Hallahan said.
Murphy was last seen at about 7 p.m. Aug. 3, when she left her Shipman home on a back-to-school shopping trip to Lynchburg, authorities said. Eleven days later, there still was no sign of her.
Federal, state and local authorities returned Wednesday to the Lovingston plot where Taylor lived in the blue-and-white camper authorities hauled off on a flatbed truck earlier in the week. Crews from the FBI, Virginia State Police and Nelson County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the residence with canine units and ATVs.
Barking dogs echoed throughout the woods surrounding the dilapidated home off U.S. 29, about 2 miles north of Lovingston.
A wooded gully about 10 feet from U.S. 29 was bordered with crime scene tape Wednesday afternoon. Investigators focused on the area for hours, entering the woods with gloves, evidence tags and cameras.
Searching through the gully, one canine handler shouted, “We found it!”
Investigator Billy Mays, of the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office, said no information will be released on Wednesday’s search.
He noted, however, crews have shifted from a missing person search to a criminal investigation.
FBI spokeswoman Dennette Rybiski would not say what investigators found on the property. She declined to comment on Hallahan’s claim about another man with Murphy.
“Law enforcement was back out conducting follow-up searches,” Rybiski wrote in an e mail. “We’re currently reviewing all evidence collected by the FBI and the [Virginia State Police] in connection to Alexis’ investigation and are not releasing details of items collected thus far.”
As investigators continued the push to find Murphy, who should have started her senior year at Nelson County High School on Monday, Murphy’s family worked to project her story into the national spotlight with appearances on network cable.
The low hum of news coverage emanating from the living room could be heard Wednesday outside the family’s Shipman home. Murphy’s father recalled the last time he saw her. The shopping trip was a topic of conversation.
“You kind of constantly rerun that day through your head, over and over,” said Troy Brown. “The days go by so fast now, it’s like you wake up, blink, and it’s dark again.”
He said he hasn’t slept well since she disappeared. He said he won’t until she comes home and hits him up for a back-to-school shopping spree. And leads her volleyball team to victory and applies to Radford University, Longwood University and Lynchburg College, as she had planned.
“Words just can’t express how I feel right now. It’s like a nightmare,” Brown said. “And it could happen to anyone, I mean, it was my child this time, but it very well could have been anyone’s child.”
He asked the community to keep praying, stay positive and leave the pink ribbons dotting Nelson County in Murphy’s honor hanging high to help light her path home.
One of those ribbons hangs on the wooden mailbox fronting Mary and Ray Wood’s home on James River Road, along the path to the Murphy home .
“As soon as I heard Claudia’s Florist and Gifts was making them, I knew I had to put one out,” Mary Wood said. “I just hope she comes home safe. That’s what I’m praying for.”
The (Lynchburg) News & Advance contributed to this report.
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