The remains of a teenage girl whose disappearance in 2013 led to national headlines and a murder trial without a body have finally been found in Virginia, authorities confirmed Wednesday.
Alexis Murphy, who was 17 at the time, went missing after being spotted with a career criminal at a gas station near her home in Shipman. The man was later charged and eventually convicted of killing her — even as he continued to proclaim his innocence while refusing to provide the victim’s location.
After seven years of search efforts, Murphy’s remains were found in early December on a private property near Route 29 in Lovingston, the same community where she was last seen, according to the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office. The remains were taken to a local medical examiner’s office for positive identification, a process that ended on Feb. 5.
Officials said they delayed Wednesday’s announcement to allow Murphy’s family to grieve and make proper arrangements. The family asked for privacy, but they issued a statement through the sheriff’s office.
“Our family is so grateful for the continuing love, support and prayers for Alexis and our family over the past 7 years,” they said. “While we have been grieving the loss of Alexis since 2013, we remained hopeful that she would be found alive and well.
“Alexis was the fashionista, athlete and joker of our family; we were blessed to have loved her for 17 years and her memory will continue to live on through us all,” the statement reads.
The man convicted in the case, Randolph Taylor, was charged days after Murphy’s disappearance in August 2013. He was found guilty of kidnapping and murder less than a year later and given two life sentences.
Investigators first linked Taylor to the crime by reviewing surveillance footage from the gas station. They later found strands of the victim’s hair, one her earrings and a human fingernail in the man’s nearby mobile home.
The high school senior was on her way to get her hair done for a school picture when the kidnapping took place, according to her family. Her car was found three days later in a movie theater parking lot.
Authorities said the searched continued “periodically” since Murphy went missing, with investigators expanding the search area each time.
The FBI’s Richmond office and Virginia State Police also took part in the years-long investigation. The state agency credited investigators’ “persistence” and “fortitude” for finding Murphy’s remains.
“As we keep her family in our thoughts & prayers, we are hopeful they are able to find peace & comfort in knowing she is no longer missing,” police said in a tweet Wednesday.
The case has now been closed.
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