LOVINGSTON — The man accused of abduction in the August disappearance of Nelson County teenager Alexis Murphy now faces one count of first-degree murder.
Randy Allen Taylor, 48, was arrested Aug. 11, eight days after 17-year-old Alexis vanished. He initially was charged with one count of abduction but Nelson County Commonwealth's Attorney Anthony Martin announced Monday morning that a special grand jury indicted Taylor on charges of murder, first-degree murder during the commission of abduction, and abduction with intent to defile.
The most pressing question — the whereabouts of Alexis — was not resolved in proceedings Monday afternoon in Nelson County Circuit Court. Martin declined to comment apart from the earlier statement made outside the Nelson County Sheriff's Office with Alexis' family in attendance; her family also did not comment on specifics of the case or if her body has been found.
Michael Hallahan, Taylor's attorney, also did not comment, citing a recent gag order that prevents law enforcement and legal parties connected to the case from divulging information.
Taylor was set for a two-week jury trial starting Feb. 3 on the abduction charge, but Martin said at Monday’s hearing that he has dropped the charge following the recent indictments. Martin has said he planned to call about 50 witnesses to testify and Hallahan has said Taylor was prepared to plead not guilty.
A new trial date of May 1 was set for the homicide charges and abduction charge. The case could take up to two weeks to complete, Nelson Circuit Judge J. Michael Gamble said Monday.
A special grand jury convened last week, at Martin's request, to hear evidence and consider indictments prepared in the Murphy case, he said. There is probable cause for the new charges, he added, but did not elaborate on the evidence at the news conference or in court.
"The return of indictments only means that the grand jury found that probable cause exists for the charges I mentioned and that Randy Taylor should go on trial for those charges," Martin said. "The defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Trina Murphy, Alexis' great-aunt, said in brief remarks after the hearing, "the [Murphy] family just wants to give thanks for everyone who supported us and continues to support us.
"We ask for continued prayer in support right now because we need that more than anything."
When asked, she said: "We really can't speak to any specifics of the case ... we just really want to let everyone know we appreciate all the effort that has gone on the past five months."
She said people have showered her family with food and phone calls, and simply showed up to give a hug.
"Of course, my family is devastated," she said, reacting to the new charges against Taylor. "I can't stand here and say that we're not. But we're going to stand in our faith in God and push through the next five months and have our day in court."
She said her family is blessed with the open communication with law enforcement and prosecutors in the case.
Trina Murphy said he has never looked her way in court.
"I want him to feel my presence," she said of Taylor. "When he's here [in court], I will be here."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Virginia State Police also have investigated Alexis' disappearance, which has generated widespread news coverage and piqued community interest. Authorities have been tight-lipped about the case, sealing search warrants and affidavits. An August bond hearing in which specifics on the initial abduction charge was discussed was closed.
Martin has said those measures are to ensure a fair and impartial jury trial for Taylor takes place in Nelson County. Gamble last month approved the gag order at Martin's request in the interest of preserving a fair trial.
A strand of hair was found in Taylor's home, according to authorities. The indictments served against Taylor on Monday allege he willfully and with premeditation killed Alexis while he was abducting or attempting to abduct her.
Hallahan said shortly after his client's arrest Taylor denied involvement and sold marijuana to a black male with cornrows who was in his trailer along with Alexis, but he never saw them again.
Martin said in court Monday he anticipates being ready to try the murder case in early May, adding an analyst on the witness list is on maternity leave. Hallahan said Taylor prefers the dates in February set aside for the original trial.
Gamble said he had concerns that Taylor would not have enough time to prepare a defense on the homicide charges in such a short time period.
Trina Murphy said the family is not opposed to the new trial date. "We want to make sure that justice is served and whatever we have to do to make that happen we're willing to do."
Taylor also faces two grand larceny charges in Nelson County Circuit Court, which are unrelated to the Murphy case but could carry additional jail time if he is convicted. Those charges will be tried in court after the murder trial concludes.
B.B. Shavers, who helped organize a search for evidence linked to Alexis in December, said this murder case and other missing person cases are driving a message to educate young people about potential dangers. He said the disappearance of Alexis hopefully is a way to "save the next girl."
"It's sad all the way around," he said.
LOVINGSTON — A special grand jury has indicted Randy Allen Taylor of first degree murder of Alexis Murphy, Nelson County Commonwealth Attorney Anthony Martin announced today.
Taylor is also indicted on charges of first degree murder during commission of abduction, abduction with intent to defile and another unrelated grand larceny charge, Martin said.
Taylor was arrested on Aug. 11, eight days after Murphy was last seen in Nelson County. He is set to face a jury on Feb. 3 on an abduction charge.
Today at a hearing he will be served the new indictments, Martin said at a news conference.
He and the Murphy family in attendance did not comment further on the whereabouts of 17-year-old Murphy. A judge has ordered a gag order preventing parties in the case from divulging specifics of the case.