Murder of Taylor Behl

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Taylor Marie Behl (October 13, 1987 – September 6, 2005) was a 17-year-old college freshman from Vienna, Virginia. She moved to Richmond, Virginia, in August 2005 to attend Virginia Commonwealth University. About two weeks later on Labor Day, September 5, 2005, Behl disappeared. Acting on a tip one month later, VCU police located her remains at a rural area in Mathews County, Virginia. Behl's disappearance and death were the subject of a major police investigation and became an Internet cause célèbre. Love You More: The Taylor Behl Story, a book written by her mother, was released on November 7, 2006.[1][2][3]

Case[edit]

In the early morning hours of Saturday, September 17, 2005, Behl's car was found in a residential neighborhood about a mile and a half from the VCU Campus. A K-9 unit police were using on the car led them to Jesse Schultz, 22, who lived in the area where Behl's car was found. Police reported that Schultz failed questions on a lie detector test when he claimed not to know and not to have been in Behl's car, and was arrested on cocaine possession charges.

Numerous search warrants were executed, including Behl's mother's home in Vienna, Virginia, and Behl's VCU Gladding Residence Center dorm room. Those questioned by police at this phase of the investigation included "Jake," a VCU student and former Behl boyfriend with whom she had dinner after she returned to Richmond on September 5, and another unnamed friend of Schultz and Behl, whose car was impounded for forensic tests because police believed that Behl might have been in his car before her disappearance. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that this "friend in common" refused a polygraph test.

Another of the last individuals to have seen Behl alive was Benjamin Fawley, a 38-year-old amateur photographer and self-described "Goth/skater from the 1980s." Investigators focused on Fawley as they began to uncover his and Behl's relationship. Fawley's attorney, Chris Collins, confirmed that Fawley "is a suspect and should be a suspect because he knew her." Police began to become more suspicious when Fawley's alibi did not hold up, and executed a search warrant issued by Richmond Circuit Court Judge Beverly W. Snukals on Fawley for offenses "substantially described as...taking indecent liberties with children attempted" and "contributing to the delinquency of a minor." Police were looking for, among other things, "women's clothing," Behl's Nokia camera phone, "Taylor Behl's key ring," her money, and "burglary tools." As a result of the search, Fawley was arrested that day, Friday, September 23, 2005, and charged with 16 counts of child pornography.

On Wednesday, October 12, 2005, Fawley, against his attorney's advice, spoke to police investigators. Fawley reportedly admitted to being with Behl the night of September 5 and into the early morning hours of September 6, 2005. He allegedly said that Behl died accidentally during a consensual sex act (likely erotic asphyxiation) with him in her car at Mathews County, Virginia. He claimed he then panicked and dumped her unburied body in a shallow ravine.

A surveillance video showed Behl and Fawley entering the VCU Gladding Residence Center together at 10:18 p.m. and Fawley waiting for Behl in the dorm's lobby while she went to her dorm room. The video's final frames show Behl and Fawley leaving the dorm together.[4]

Behl's mother Janet Pelasara called Fawley "a big, fat liar" and claimed that Behl had sex "once out of curiosity" with Fawley in April, 2005, "and then didn't want anything to do with him."[1]

On Monday, October 17, 2005, Richmond Circuit Court Chief Judge, Margaret Spencer, issued a gag order, prohibiting witnesses who appear before the court from publicly discussing their testimony, effectively quashing any witness accounts becoming public until Fawley's trial.

Since then, court records have shown that on Tuesday, January 17, 2006, Mathews County, Virginia indicted Fawley for Behl's murder. The indictment accuses him of killing Behl "willfully, deliberately and with premeditation" while attempting to abduct and rape her.[5]

On Monday, February 13, 2006, the indictment was amended, barring immediate accusations of rape and abduction. The reworded first-degree murder charge now accuses that Fawley "did feloniously kill and murder Taylor Marie Behl."[6]

On Wednesday, August 9, 2006, Circuit Court Judge William H. Shaw, III accepted Fawley's guilty plea to second degree murder and sentenced him to thirty years in prison. Fawley had entered an Alford plea.[7]

Use of internet[edit]

In September 2007, Chuck Cohen, a first sergeant with the Indiana State Police, told a class of 21 law enforcement agencies studying "how criminals often leave an online trail at social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook" that the Taylor Behl case marked one of the first times that police narrowed down their suspect pool using a MySpace friends list. Cohen said that Fawley's Internet footprint eventually led police to Behl's body.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Participate.net[dead link][not in citation given]
  2. ^ Washington Post
  3. ^ Times Dispatch[dead link]
  4. ^ Richmond Times Dispatch[dead link]
  5. ^ TimesDispatch.com Charge amended against Fawley[dead link]
  6. ^ VCU Gladding Residence Center Survellience Cam Footage[dead link]
  7. ^ "Social networking sites prove to be good investigative tool." Baton Rouge, La. Morning Advocate, Sunday, Sept 02, 2007[dead link]
  8. ^ 30-Year Sentence In Slaying Of Student Washington Post, Thursday, August 10, 2006; Page B01

External links[edit]