Taylor Behl: Searching For Secrets

VCU Student Disappears From Campus On Labor Day 2005

This story originally aired Jan. 16, 2007. It was updated July 6, 2007.

For 17-year-old Taylor Behl of Vienna, Va., happiness was sipping cappuccino and listening to live music at her favorite neighborhood coffee shop. But on Labor Day 2005, having spent the long weekend at home, all Taylor wanted was to get back to her freshman year of college.

Virginia Commonwealth University -- known as VCU -- was only two hours away in Richmond, but it was too far away for Taylor's mother, Janet Pelasara. "I was having migraine headaches, panic attacks just knowing that she wasn't going to be around," Janet remembers.

Taylor is Janet's only child, and the two were inseparable.

Matt Behl, Taylor's dad, and Janet divorced when Taylor was almost 2, but they shared a profound love for their daughter. "She didn't have a wide circle of friends, but those that really knew Taylor really liked her," he remembers.

"She would always stand up for her friends, and you could turn to her for anything. She would always be there," says Taylor's best friend, Glynnis Keogh.

So on that Labor Day weekend, no one wanted to see Taylor leave, as she headed back to VCU.

Several hours later after leaving home, Taylor arrived in Richmond at her college dorm. She unpacked, chatted with her friends, and called both her parents to let them know she was okay.

But as correspondent Erin Moriarty reports, Taylor disappeared later that night.

Her roommate, Emma Ellsworth, says the last thing Taylor said to her was that she'd be back in three hours.

Asked when she first got worried that something might be wrong, Emma says, "The next night when we realized she hadn't been back for a day. Her books were still there, she hadn't gone to any of her classes, which was odd."

Emma notified the VCU campus police, who told Janet that both her daughter and her car were missing. VCU police questioned friends and acquaintances; they wondered if Taylor could have simply wandered off.

Desperate for information, Taylor's mom turned to the press to get the story out and the search for Taylor went nationwide.

"Hope became less and less. I kept telling everyone around me, you know, 'It's gonna be ok. She's gonna come back alive,'" recalls Glynnis Keogh.

Ten days after Taylor's disappearance, VCU turned the case over to the Richmond police. Chief Rodney Monroe organized a task force made up of university, state, and federal investigators.

"The task force was mainly created just so that we could handle the volume of information that had to be processed," Monroe explains.

"Where do you start? You start with your victim. Everyone your victim knows, every place your victim's been and that was our starting point," explains Richmond Police Capt. John Venuti.

Ben Fawley was one of the last people to have seen Taylor the night she disappeared. Asked what happened when Taylor came over, Fawley tells Moriarty, "She was all upset because she had been dumped online by her official boyfriend."

But when police interviewed the boyfriend, Jacob Cunningham, they learned he and Taylor had dinner that night and had made up.

"Once you talk to Jacob, he's a very nice young man. We narrowed his timeline to where we felt comfortable excluding him from any person of interest," says Detective Jason Hudson.

After dinner, Taylor told Jacob she was planning on going skateboarding. The last sighting of Taylor the night she disappeared was captured on a campus surveillance video at 10:24 p.m.