Last fall, Randy Taylor and his attorney walked into the offices of The Hook – a scrappy, award-winning weekly paper – and laid out a detailed case of harassment by police investigators trying to nail him for the disappearance of 19-year-old Samantha Clarke in Orange County in the fall of 2010.
Now he’s the prime suspect in the August 3 disappearance of Alexis Murphy of Nelson County.
If you were making a movie about abductions, and the 49-year-old Taylor was an actor, you might well cast him as the bad guy.
There’s the old neck tattoos (including one of Daffy Duck), the craggy smoker’s face, the short, seemingly oily hair . . . a guy who looks at home in a striped prison suit.
It’s a role investigators have sized Taylor up for almost three years now, soon after Samantha’s disappearance.
Those investigators were apparently so sure of Taylor’s cameo role, they planted a CPS tracking device on his Mercury Grand Marquis, a tactic that backfired and led to charges being dropped against Taylor for DUI and a weapon supposedly found in his car when police pulled him over in Ruckersville in the spring of 2011.
Now, he’s the star of another baffling disappearance case, one very similar to his last starring role.
Taylor admits he’s one of the last people to see 17-year-old Alexis Murphy before she vanished. She had come to his camper trailer for a pot deal with another man, according to Taylor’s lawyer. Reportedly, one of her hairs was found there. And he was seen at the same gas station as she was – her last visible stop.
There may be similar phone conversation and social media connections. Investigators have cell phones they are analyzing in the recent case.
But what else?
The media wasn’t allowed into Taylor’s Thursday bond hearing when the prosecution was laying out its evidence for keeping Taylor in his striped suit.
But when the media was allowed into the bond hearing, Taylor’s attorney, Michael Hallahan, waved off the prosecution’s evidence, saying he didn’t see how they could hold his client, let alone convict him.
But Nelson Country Judge A. Ellen White disagreed, ordering Taylor to be held without bond pending a grand jury hearing on Sept. 24, citing his previous criminal history and the evidence presented by the prosecutor.
Hallahan argued that investigators have tunnel vision in the case, focusing on Taylor instead of the pot dealer who supposedly left Taylor’s trailer with the girl. He showed a picture of a black man with corn rows, saying investigators should be looking for that person.
Like Samantha Clarke, there’s no evidence that Alexis Murphy has been harmed, or – apparently – even evidence that she was abducted.
There are no bodies. No reports of them crying for help or fighting for freedom. They’re just gone.
In their place, we see the craggy, composed face of Randy Taylor over and over again, slowly blinking his eyes like an opossum. If he was an actor, he might win an award for his bad-guy performance.
Or one for being the wrongly accused.
A friend of Taylor’s told “The Hook” publication that the auto detailer and sometime repo man likes crime shows, like “48 Hours” and “CSI.”
Could he be some kind of diabolical genius?
Or maybe just super lucky?
Or could he be innocent?