"The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose."
It was the 3rd of August 2013. A Saturday. Seventeen year old Alexis Murphy borrowed her father's car to drive from their home in Shipman, Virginia, United States to Lynchburg. Her Senior pictures were due to be taken and she wanted to buy some hair extensions so that she could have her hair done for the photographs.
The trip to Lynchburg was a twenty minute or so drive away and Alexis left just after 3pm that day, the 3rd of August.
Alexis had a curfew and was due home before midnight. She was never late. So, when her grandmother noticed that she wasn't home after midnight, she contacted Alexis's mother, Laura Murphy, to let her know that Alexis had not returned since leaving for Lynchburg. Laura was working an overnight shift at the post office. It was so uncharacteristic of Alexis not to return home on time that she contacted Alexis's father, Troy Brown, as soon as she heard. Troy called the police.
A huge search took place including family, friends, volunteers, police and the FBI. There was a helicopter in the air looking for any sign of Alexis or Troy's car but nothing was found until three days later.
Three days after Alexis went missing, Troy's car was found parked at a movie theater in Charlottesville, over thirty five miles from where Alexis was last seen. Nothing was found inside or outside the car that led police any closer to finding Alexis. They obtained the surveillance footage from the mall at the movie theater. On the 4th of August, Troy's car is seen on the footage driving into the parking lot at the movie theater at 10.30pm. That was one day after Alexis was last seen. The footage was poor quality and it could not be determined who was driving the car.
Police tried a few locations along the route from Shipman to Lynchburg and discovered that on the 3rd of August, Alexis stopped off at the Liberty gas station in Lovingston. Surveillance footage obtained from the gas station showed Alexis entering and purchasing gas. There was nothing out of the ordinary in the footage. She appeared to be alone and looked normal. The footage showed a man holding the door open for Alexis as she left the gas station. There did not appear to be any exchange between them but police wanted to speak to the man seen in the footage in case he knew anything.
The man had a distinctive neck tattoo, a tattoo of Daffy Duck, so he was easy to identify. He drove a camouflage Chevrolet Suburban.
The FBI traced Alexis's phone and it pinged off a cell tower just one mile from the gas station. Police and the FBI went to the exact location and found an abandoned property. The property was along Route 29 and beside the main highway but due to a lot of vegetation, it was shielded from view.
When police searched the property and land, they found a camouflage Chevy Suburban and were greeted by a man called Randy Taylor.
Police believed Randy was the same man they saw on the surveillance footage from the gas station. He had the distinctive neck tattoo. Randy was cooperative with the police. He invited them into his camper. When police were inside the camper, they found a diamond stud earring, a fingernail and a long black hair. They believed that these belonged to Alexis and they asked Randy if he knew where she was but he said that he had not seen her.
Police sent the items they found to the lab to be tested. Swabs taken from the diamond stud earring, fingernail and hair were all a match to Alexis' DNA.
Police investigated further and looked at surveillance footage from the gas station from different angles and they spoke to people who were there at the time. The footage showed Randy's vehicle driving northbound and then Troy's car, which Alexis had been driving, driving right behind Randy's vehicle. When police spoke to the people who were at the gas station that day, they discovered that Randy and Alexis did speak to each other. They had a brief conversation. Some of the people from the gas station knew of Randy. They would see him sitting in his car just observing others.
Randy Taylor's Vehicle
Furthermore, an employee at a porn shop told police that Randy was at their store just 45 minutes before he went to the gas station. He purchased two adult videos. The porn shop was just two miles from where Troy's car was found in the movie theater parking lot.
Police found more evidence when they searched Randy's camper. They found Alexis's top, hair extensions and her false eyelashes. Alexis's blood was on the back of the top. Police found her smashed phone 15 feet from his camper.
A further search of his property revealed he was in possession of a scrapbook with pornographic pictures. Faces of women in the community were cut out and taped over the photos of the naked women.
When police asked Randy if he knew Alexis, he said he did not. But when faced with DNA evidence police had found, he later confirmed that she was at his camper that day, the 3rd of August. Randy told police that he met Alexis a month before at the car company he worked for. He claimed that when he saw her at the gas station, she made a comment to him about smoking marijuana. He indicated that he would like some and she told him she knew someone who could help. When they left the gas station, Alexis went to Randy's house with a man that Randy described as a black with dreadlocks. According to Randy, Alexis did not take or smoke drugs or drink at his camper. They left after a while and Alexis and the man went in separate cars. He told police that he did not know where she went after that.
Police spoke to the man who Randy claimed was with Alexis. His name was Damien Bradley. Damien denied any involvement in Alexis's disappearance. He had an alibi. That day, he was with his father in Alabama.
Police arrested Randy and charged him with abduction. Alexis's family did not know Randy but recognized him from the car company he worked for as Alexis's aunt had recently bought a car from him. Randy was later charged with murder even though Alexis was still missing. Police believed due to the items and blood found on Alexis's belongings at his property, that a violent altercation had taken place. They believed the motive for the attack was sexual in nature.
Randy pleaded not guilty.
He was found guilty of first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile and was sentenced to two life sentences.
Even though Randy claimed he was innocent throughout the entire Trial, when faced with the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison, he wanted to make a deal. Randy told Prosecutors that in exchange for reducing the life sentence to twenty years, he would reveal where Alexis's body was. Alexis's family were made aware of the offer. But despite their desperation to know where Alexis was, they did not want Randy to be released from prison early and be free again to hurt someone else.
Authorities believe that Randy may have been involved in the disappearance of another woman, nineteen year old Samantha Clarke. Samantha went missing from Orange in 2010. Orange is 28 miles from Charlottesville.
At the time of Samantha's disappearance, Randy and Samantha lived in the same trailer park and he called her just before she went missing. On the 13th of September 2010, Samantha was home alone with her younger brother Hunter. Their mother, Barbara Tinder, was working the overnight shift that night and when she left to go to work, Samantha was in her pajamas watching TV in the living room.
Hunter rang Barbara at 12.30am but she couldn't answer as she was working. She returned his call at 1.30am and he told her that Samantha went out. He was upstairs in his bedroom at the time and she called up to him to let him know she was heading out but would be back.
Hunter did not know where Samantha went and when Barbara got home at 7.05am, she found Samantha's pajamas on her bed so she knew she changed clothes before leaving the house. The only thing missing was her house key. It seemed that she did not take anything else with her. Samantha was reported missing later that day.
Police questioned Randy as they discovered that he called her five times that night. Samantha knew Randy and had spent time with a group of his friends in the week leading up to her disappearance.
Randy claimed that he called Samantha to warn her that another woman wanted to attack her. He claimed that Samantha was involved with a man who had a girlfriend and Randy called to warn her to stay away from the man and told her about the girlfriend's threat.
Randy Taylor has not been charged in connection to Samantha’s disappearance.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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