Day 6: Randy Taylor guilty in murder of Alexis Murphy

Alexis Murphy's parents Laura Murphy and Troy Brown stood outside the courthouse after the jury recommended two life sentences. Photo: Lisa Provence Alexis Murphy’s parents Laura Murphy and Troy Brown stood outside the courthouse after the jury recommended two life sentences. Photo: Lisa Provence

In little more than six hours, a Nelson County jury found Randy Allen Taylor guilty of abduction with intent to defile and first-degree murder in the commission of an abduction for the death of 17-year-old Alexis Murphy, who disappeared August 3 and whose body has not been found.

A grim-looking jury that avoided looking at a somber Taylor filed back into the courtroom shortly before 4pm. Judge Michael Gamble read the two guilty verdicts.

“It has been a living hell for us,” said Laura Murphy, Alexis’ mother, during the sentencing portion of the hearing. “If [Taylor] were in my shoes, how would he feel?” She recounted that her daughter missed her “most important year”—her senior year in high school—and will not get her diploma next week on May 17, before breaking down in sobs.

At that point, Taylor’s court-appointed attorney, Michael Hallahan stood up and said to the judge, “Mr. Taylor requests not to be present in court.” Taylor rushed to the exit with deputies behind him.

Before the jury went to decide on a verdict, which ranged from minimum of 20 years to life for each count, Commonwealth’s Attorney Anthony Martin read Taylor’s criminal history: convictions for arson, fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud in Albemarle in 2004; burglary and grand larceny in Virginia Beach in 1993; felony hit and run reduced to a misdemeanor in 2012 in Greene County, and grand larceny reduced to a misdemeanor in 2013 in Greene.

What Martin did not tell the jury was that Taylor was the suspect in the 2010 disappearance of Samantha Clarke, 19, in Orange. Clarke’s body has never been found. Orange Detective Evans Oakerson, who had investigated the Clarke disappearance, was in the Lovingston courtroom.

Before the jury went back to recommend a sentence, Martin reminded the jurors of the police interviews with Taylor they’d heard during trial. “In the interviews the defendant showed no empathy, no remorse,” he said. “He took a young life and threw it away.” Martin asked for a life sentence for both charges.

With Taylor absent from the courtroom, his attorney told the jury that Taylor would turn 49 next month and that the minimum sentence of 40 years would amount to a life sentence.

The jury took fewer than 30 minutes to come back with a recommendation of life in prison on both counts. Taylor will be formally sentenced July 23.

After court was in recess, Laura Murphy hugged Nelson Sheriff’s Office investigator Billy Mays, before Murphy’s family, friends, investigators in the case, and Martin held a brief press conference in front of the courthouse. Martin said the jury had “put a dangerous man in jail.”

Hearing the verdict “was like winning the lottery,” said family spokesperson Trina Murphy, Alexis’ great aunt. “It was justice being served.”

She did not mince words about Taylor’s abrupt departure from the courtroom: “Cowards always run,” she said, and she acknowledged that the verdict didn’t bring the closure the family needs because Alexis is still missing. She commended the jury: “I’m confident they made the right decision.”