Alexis Murphy’s white iPhone 4, which her family describes as her “lifeline,” has been recovered, authorities announced Tuesday.
But there still was no sign of the Shipman teen, last seen a month ago, Aug. 3, at the Liberty gas station in Lovingston. FBI agents and Nelson County authorities launched a frantic search after she left home, telling her family she was making a shopping trip to Lynchburg, and never returned.
“The only thing we’re missing now is Alexis,” said Trina Murphy, the Nelson County High School student’s great-aunt.
The FBI issued a news release Tuesday saying one of several phones agents had recovered in the case has been identified as Murphy’s. Authorities declined to provide further details, such as when and where the phone was found.
Trina Murphy said the FBI told her about the discovery before issuing the release and said several phones had been taken to a crime lab in Quantico. Agents declined to tell her more, she said.
“Obviously, this is huge,” Trina Murphy said. “It’s a big piece of the puzzle.”
The revelation is among the largest public developments in the case since the Aug. 11 arrest of Randy Allen Taylor, 48, on an abduction charge. His lawyer has said Murphy, 17, visited Taylor’s camper in Lovingston along with a man who sold Taylor marijuana on the night she disappeared. The man and Taylor left in separate cars, according to Taylor’s lawyer.
Three days later, authorities tracked down Murphy’s white Nissan Maxima in the Carmike Six cinema parking lot off Gardens Boulevard in Albemarle County. Murphy’s family has said they don’t believe Taylor’s claims about the mysterious third party, described by his lawyer as a black man in his 20s with cornrows.
“It’s really time for [Taylor] to start talking,” Trina Murphy said Tuesday afternoon.
News on Murphy’s phone “just really verifies what we already knew,” Trina Murphy said. “She did not leave of her own accord. We have mixed emotions about it.”
Still, relatives are “more hopeful now than ever,” Trina Murphy said.
“All we need is her,” Trina Murphy said. “She’s the next piece to the puzzle.”
Authorities repeatedly have searched the property where Taylor lived in a ramshackle camper off U.S. 29. Searchers found a red sweater Saturday while combing the Rockfish River, but Nelson County Investigator Billy Mays said Tuesday the garment did not belong to Alexis.
Information from authorities about the case has been scant, necessary to “protect the integrity of the investigation and ensure that Mr. Randy Allen Taylor gets a fair trial,” the FBI said. Announcing the recovery of the cell phone was intended only “to advise the public that we no longer need assistance looking for that one item,” the FBI said.
Trina Murphy said she believes the many people around the nation lifting her family up in prayer are making a difference.
“All those people who are tweeting and everything, all those people are also praying,” she said. “Prayer changes things, and there’s so many people praying. Keep the prayers coming.
“Keep paying attention and listening. Look for clues. Keep calling in tips.”
Alexis’ family, Trina Murphy said, is “not giving up until we find her.”
“The only option is to find her.”
Taylor is being held in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
The FBI announced today that a cell phone "positively identified as that of Alexis Murphy" has been located.
During the course of the investigation of the disappearance of the Nelson County teenager, authorities encouraged the public to submit any found cell phones to them. Those phones were sent to a FBI laboratory for identification. Authorities did not release any further information on how and where Alexis' phone was found.
Alexis, 17, was last seen Aug. 3 at the Liberty gas station off U.S. 29 in Lovingston. On Aug. 6, investigators found her sedan in the parking lot of the Carmike movie theater in Albemarle County.
Randy Allen Taylor, 48, was charged Aug. 11 with abduction in Alexis’ disappearance.
Search crews have yet to find her.
This has been a breaking news update. Read more in tomorrow's Daily Progress.