Alexis Murphy Update: Lawyer for man accused of abducting missing Va. teen says disappearance may be tied to drug deal

Randy Taylor, 48, is a suspect in the disappearance of Virginia teen Alexis Murphy.
Randy Taylor, 48, is a suspect in the disappearance of Virginia teen Alexis Murphy

(CBS/AP) CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The man accused of abducting Virginia teenager Alexis Murphy was with her the night she vanished, but his lawyer says he didn't have anything to do with the disappearance -- rather, it may be connected to a drug deal.

PICTURES: Man charged in Va. teen's disappearance was probed in another case

Randy Allen Taylor's court-appointed lawyer, Michael Hallahan, maintained his client's innocence Wednesday as investigators returned to Taylor's Lovingston property.

Hallahan alleged that Taylor ran into the 17-year-old at a gas station Aug. 3, the day she disappeared, CBS affiliate WTVR reports, and that Taylor asked the teen if she could find him a drug dealer. It wasn't the first encounter between the two, the lawyer alleged - nearly a month before, while Taylor was working at a local carwash, he says Murphy started talking to Taylor after she noticed he was smoking marijuana.

The night Murphy vanished, Hallahan said the 17-year-old was at Taylor's camper with another man. 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.

Hallahan described the evidence against his client as "weak.'

"I don't like the way that people are already saying bad things about Mr. Taylor and they don't know anything about the case,"Hallahan told WTVR. "Hundreds and hundreds of cars go from the Liberty (gas station) every afternoon and every morning. A lot of them are heading North. I could be a suspect. I get gas there and go back to my office all the time."

FBI spokeswoman Dennette Rybiski declined to comment on Hallahan's statements about the other man or say what evidence has been collected.

Alexis Murphy

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."

Taylor was investigated as a person of interest in the case of Virginia teen Samantha Clarke, who vanished three years ago in Orange County, about an hour and a half away. He was never charged in that case. A prosecutor told WTVR that Taylor was one of several people Clarke had contact with before her disappearance.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call (434) 263-7050.

Complete coverage of Alexis Murphy on Crimesider

  • Erin Donaghue

    Erin Donaghue covers crime for's Crimesider.