Randy Allen Taylor said he’d never seen 17-year-old Alexis Murphy before. He said he wasn’t at the Liberty gas station in Lovingston on August 3, the day the Nelson County teenager disappeared. And he said she had never, ever been in his camper in two separate interviews with police, recordings of which were played in Nelson Circuit Court May 5 during Taylor’s trial for the murder and abduction of Alexis Murphy.
The recordings were heard after FBI forensic experts earlier had testified about how they identified blood, hair, a torn fingernail, a diamond stud, and false eyelashes found in Taylor’s camper as matching Murphy’s DNA.
Nelson Sheriff’s Office investigator William Mays took the witness stand and is heard on two different recordings taken August 5 and August 7 talking to Taylor, 48, at the property where he lived just north of Lovingston on U.S. 29.
In the interviews, Taylor said he’d spent August 3 four-wheeling with a friend in Barboursville, and had returned home around 9pm. Video from Liberty introduced last week showed Taylor holding the door for Murphy at the gas station around 7pm, and a cashier testified she’d seen Murphy talk to Taylor, who was sitting in his camouflage Suburban in the parking lot.
“I don’t remember going there,” said Taylor repeatedly during the interviews, although he also acknowledged he smoked a pack of Pall Malls a day and usually went to the Liberty station to purchase them.
In the August 5 interview, Taylor told investigators he’d driven from Orange on down to the Sheetz in Madison Heights south of Lovingston, and sat in its parking lot for 20 to 30 minutes. And he said he had not left his house since Saturday night, August 3. Last week, a bartender for Applebee’s said Taylor came in Sunday night, August 4, ordered two Heinekens and asked for a cab to take him to Nelson County.
The second interview two days later on Wednesday, August 7, occurred shortly before Taylor was arrested and the camper was searched. Mays told Taylor, “You’re the only person who saw her last,” and asked for any information that would help them track down the rising high school senior.
“I don’t remember going there,” replied Taylor, who then admitted he wasn’t supposed to be driving and had consumed five beers during the four-wheeling, a number he later upped to nine beers.
He also confessed he hadn’t gone to the Sheetz in Madison Heights, as he said in the first interview, but instead had gone to Amherst where he’d gotten a quarter ounce of marijuana for $45 from a friend. “You’re getting a deal,” Mays said on the recording.
Mays assured Taylor they didn’t want to get his friend in trouble and were just trying to find the missing teen. “We’re not concerned about driving or smoking a little weed,” said Mays. “I mean, half the county probably smokes a little weed.”
Taylor refused to name the pot-smoking buddy who could provide an alibi, and repeatedly said he didn’t remember talking to Murphy that night at the Liberty gas station.
“He, to date, has never given me a name,” said Mays, who also testified that no marijuana was found in Taylor’s camper.
Perhaps the most emotional moment of the day came when the sealed evidence bag containing Taylor’s blue, Miller Lite-logoed t-shirt, upon which Murphy’s blood was found on the back of the shirt, was opened in court, along with a hair extension that one witness described as “enough to make a ponytail.” Murphy’s great-aunt, Trina Murphy, watched with her hands clasped over her mouth as the hair extension found inside Taylor’s balled-up t-shirt was removed from the evidence bag.
“It’s comforting to me to know she fought,” said Trina Murphy later outside the courthouse. “She fought for her life.”
She also described her reaction to hearing the police interview recordings. “[Taylor] remembers everything about that day, but he doesn’t remember going to Liberty gas station and talking to my niece.”
An expert witness from the FBI testified about that a hair found on a pillow with the root attached belonged to Alexis Murphy and that it was forcibly removed.
Forensic examiner Amber Carr said no semen was found on bed sheets and sofa cushions. She also said that seven swabs taken from the Nissan Maxima Murphy was driving the night she disappeared showed no evidence of Randy Taylor’s DNA in the car.
Defense attorney Michael Hallahan objected to Commonwealth’s Attorney Anthony Martin’s attempt to enter photographs taken from Taylor’s camper that depicted the head of a young woman purported to be a former Miss Teen Virginia pasted onto other women’s bodies. “He’s charged with abduction with intent to defile,” said Martin. “This would satisfy the intent to defile.”
Judge Michael Gamble did not allow the photos to be entered, but by the end of the day said he was reconsidering whether they should be entered.
Gamble began the day by stepping off the bench and walking over to where the press was seated to give them a stern scolding because two television station camera men had filmed jurors. He promised to hold anyone who did so in contempt of court, to ban them from the court, and to call the CEO of the responsible news organization.
“I can’t believe how irresponsible that is,” said the clearly angered jurist. “Clean up your act..”
Before being allowed to leave the courthouse, all reporters were handed a court order forbidding the publication or broadcast of any juror during the trial.
The trial continues Tuesday, May 6.