Nelson County Commonwealth's Attorney Anthony Martin said today a special grand jury recently convened at his request to hear evidence and consider indictments that he prepared in the Alexis Murphy case.
The jury indicted Randy Allen Taylor, 48, on the offenses of first-degree murder of Murphy, murder during commission of aduction and abduction with intent to defile after evidence was presented on Jan. 2, he said.
Martin, accompanied by the Murphy family, announced the new charges outside the Nelson County Sheriff's Office during a press conference.
Martin and the Murphy family did not immediately address questions on the wherabouts of Murphy, 17, who has been missing since Aug. 3.
Taylor is scheduled to appear at 3 p.m. in Nelson County Circuit Court where Martin said he will be served with the new charges. He is facing a jury trial on Feb. 3 on a charge of abduction in connection to the Murphy case; Martin said at an October hearing he plans to call approximately 50 witnesses.
Martin said there is probable cause for the new charges, but didn't address the evidence any further at today's press conference.
"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," said Martin. "The defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Virginia State Police have also investigated Murphy's disappearance. Authorities have been tight-lipped about the case, sealing search warrants and affidavits and a bond hearing for Taylor in which specifics were shared was closed to the public in August.
Martin has said those steps are to ensure that a fair and impartial jury trial for Taylor takes place in Nelson County. Judge J. Michael Gamble last month approved Martin's request for a gag order to keep parties close to the case from divulging information as the trial nears.
The Murphy case has generated constant news coverage and stirred much community support for Alexis and family members in recent months. Murphy, 17, was last seen at a Lovingston gas station on Aug. 3 and authorities have said a strand of hair belonging to Murphy was found in his home nearby in Lovingston.
Taylor's attorney, Michael Hallahan, said shortly after his client's arrest that Murphy and a black male were in his home but left and Taylor never saw them again. Trina Murphy, Alexis's great-aunt, said shortly after a hearing in October that she believes Taylor took Alexis and knows where she is.
B.B. Shavers, who in December helped organize a group of volunteers to search in Nelson County for Murphy apart from law enforcement, said after learning of the murder charge that he and others continue to pray for the Murphys in such a difficult time.
He said her tragic disappearance, and other missing person cases in the state like that of Morgan Harrington, are driving a message to educate young people about potential dangers in a hope to "save the next girl."
"It's sad all the way around," Shavers said.
The Murphy murder charge comes as nine other homicide cases in Lynchburg area courts, including one other in Nelson County, are heading into final phases of court proceedings this year and early 2015. Five of those cases are in Campbell County, two are in Lynchburg and another in neighboring Amherst. Linda Campbell Blackwell, of Lovingston, is also facing a murder charge in the death of a man who was killed by burns sustained in a fire at her home in Aug. 2009.