Alexis Murphy suspect remains held without bond
Liana Bayne, a former news intern with The Free Lance-Star is now working for The Daily Progress in Charlottesville. She covered the bond hearing for Randy Allen Taylor in Nelson County on Thursday.
Taylor is charged with abducting 17-year-old Alexis Tiara Murphy. She remains missing.
Below is Bayne’s report.
By Liana Bayne, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Va. (MCT)
LOVINGSTON — While the search for Alexis Murphy continues, Randy Allen Taylor will remain behind bars.
A Nelson County judge denied Taylor, 48, bond Thursday on an abduction charge in the Nelson County teen’s disappearance. Taylor also waived his right to a preliminary hearing, sending the case directly to a grand jury, which meets next month.
Authorities arrested Taylor on Aug. 11, eight days after Murphy, 17, left her Shipman home for a shopping trip toLynchburgand never returned.
Clad in a striped, gray-and-black prison jumpsuit with his hands and feet bound, Taylor occasionally glanced over his shoulder at onlookers, seldom spoke and displayed little emotion during the bond hearing incountyJuvenileand Domestic Relations Court.
About 10 minutes of the proceedings were closed while county Commonwealth’s Attorney Anthony Martin presented what he said would be evidence from affidavits and search warrants sealed under an Aug. 7 judge’s order.
“Things are going to be revealed that are going to jeopardize the right to a fair trial later on,” Martin said.
He called the case “sensitive and unusual” and said the media coverage was “unprecedented for this area.”
Michael Hallahan, Taylor’s court-appointed attorney, argued that his client should go free on a secured bond. He acknowledged Taylor’s criminal history, but said his three past felony convictions happened 20 years ago and a current probation violation inAlbemarleCountyis an overdue restitution payment from a 2005 arson charge.
“There’s nothing about that to make him a flight risk,” Hallahan said.
Hallahan said Taylor would not object to wearing a GPS ankle bracelet and wanted to reside with his son and the boy’s mother inNelsonCounty.
Martin argued that Taylor is a danger to the public and his failures to make past court appearances inGreeneCountymake him a flight risk. Flight risk and danger to the public are key criteria in bond decisions.
After hearing Martin’s evidence behind closed doors, Hallahan said there was “nothing about what the commonwealth said that justifies the abduction charge.”
He said the same weak evidence might just as well be used to justify other charges.
“Why not murder or wounding?” he said.
Hallahan alluded to a defense he’d unveiled to reporters last week, when he said police should be seeking a man who visited Taylor’s tiny camper with Murphy on the night she disappeared. The man and Murphy left in separate cars from the Lovingston plot where Taylor lives, and he never saw them again, Hallahan said earlier.
Hallahan said in court that he “told law enforcement about the individual identified as the adult who saw Alexis since [Taylor] saw Alexis. His position is that he is not the culprit.”
“We’ve given law enforcement everything we’ve got,” about the other man, Hallahan said.
Hallahan last week told reporters that Taylor bought $60 in marijuana from the man and the two smoked and drank bottles of Icehouse beer Aug. 3 while Murphy looked on. Murphy’s family last saw her at about 7 p.m. that day. Taylor described the man as black, in his early 20s, wearing cornrows and driving a 1990s sedan with 22-inch rims, Hallahan said.
Three days after she went missing, Murphy’s car was found in the Carmike Six Cinemas parking lot offGardens BoulevardinAlbemarleCounty.
Authorities repeatedly have declined to comment on Taylor’s claim about the other man.
Murphy’s great-aunt, Trina Murphy, sat in court sporting a pink ribbon bow pinned to her black blouse along with a pink skirt and pink handbag. Pink is Alexis’ favorite color.
Like the media and the public, Trina Murphy was outside the courtroom as Martin presented evidence that she said she and the family had not heard.
Judge A. Ellen White earlier ordered the entire proceedings closed, but following an argument by lawyer Craig Merritt on behalf of several television stations, opened public access to the hearing on the condition that Martin could request that it be closed as he revealed sensitive information that could jeopardize the investigation and search.
Trina Murphy reiterated the skepticism she expressed last week about the prospect of another man.
“I think the last man to see Alexis was sitting beside his attorney,” she said.
The county grand jury is scheduled to meet Sept. 24.
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