Investigators pursue link between suspect in Alexis Murphy case and Orange woman’s disappearance

Randy Allen Taylor. Photo: FBI Richmond Division. Randy Allen Taylor. Photo: FBI Richmond Division.

The investigation into the disappearance of 17-year-old Alexis Murphy is reigniting interest in the case of Samantha Clarke, an Orange resident who vanished in September 2010 when she was 19. The link: Both women may have had contact with Randy Allen Taylor, the 48-year-old Nelson man arrested Sunday on forcible abduction charges in relation to the Murphy case. Taylor is being held without bail at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, where he will remain until a January court appearance.

Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney Diana Wheeler confirmed Tuesday that the lead investigator in the Clarke case, Evans Oakerson, was working with investigators in Nelson County, where police and FBI agents are searching Taylor’s Lovingston home for clues that could lead them to Murphy, who went missing August 4 after leaving her Shipman home after saying she was going shopping in Lynchburg. Her car was found last Tuesday in a Charlottesville parking lot.

Police say Taylor, who has an arrest history in Virginia going back two decades, talked to Samantha Clarke by cell phone the night she vanished.

“Both the Office of the Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Town of Orange Police Department welcome the renewed public attention to Ms. Clarke’s disappearance,” the release from Wheeler reads. “As Randy Taylor is someone that Samantha spoke with immediately prior to her disappearance, he remains someone we are very interested in learning more about.”

Taylor, whom records show has lived in Central Virginia at least since 2004, served four and a half years in jail in the 1990s for statutory burglary and larceny, according to Virginia Beach court documents obtained by the Washington Post. He was arrested for assault in Charlottesville in 2004, records show, but the case was dropped.

Albemarle County court records show Taylor was convicted of arson in February 2005, but served no jail time. Since then, he’s been charged with multiple traffic violations, illegal possession of a firearm, and possession of marijuana—charges he told The Hook in 2012 amounted to police harassment by investigators trying to tie him to the Samantha Clarke case.

Taylor appeared before a judge in Nelson County in a preliminary hearing today. According to reports, he is being represented by public defender Scott DeBruin, and will be held without bond at Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail until his next court appearance, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. January 9, 2014.