CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The man accused of abducting a Virginia teenager was with her the night of her disappearance, but his lawyer says authorities arrested the wrong man.
Randy Allen Taylor’s court-appointed lawyer, Michael Hallahan, maintained his client’s innocence Wednesday as investigators returned to Taylor’s Lovingston property.
Hallahan said 17-year-old Alexis Murphy was at Taylor’s camper with another man the night she disappeared. The lawyer said Taylor bought marijuana from the man and smoked it with him, and that the two left in separate cars.
Hallahan said Taylor didn’t know the man, but he was described as a black male in his early 20s, wearing cornrows and driving a 1990s sedan with 22-inch rims.
Authorities have said Murphy was last seen around 7 p.m. Aug 3, when she left her home to go shopping in Lynchburg. Her car was found in the parking lot of a multiplex in Charlottesville three days later.
After finding a strand of Murphy’s hair in Taylor’s camper eight days after she was last seen, authorities arrested him on an abduction charge, Hallahan said. Taylor is being held without bond in Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail and faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted.
“The evidence is very weak, from what I hear,” Hallahan said. “Finding a hair in the residence doesn’t mean he abducted her.”
FBI spokeswoman Dennette Rybiski declined to comment on Hallahan’s statements about the other man or say what evidence has been collected.
Authorities returned to Taylor’s home Wednesday, searching the area with dogs and ATVs. Investigators focused on a wooded area for hours, entering with gloves, evidence tags and cameras.
Investigator Billy Mays of the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office declined to release information about the search but noted that crews have shifted from a missing-person search to a criminal investigation.
Murphy’s father, Troy Brown, said he hasn’t slept well since she disappeared and won’t until she comes home.
“Words just can’t express how I feel right now. It’s like a nightmare,” Brown said. “And it could happen to anyone, I mean, it was my child this time, but it very well could have been anyone’s child.”