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Taylor Behl, 17 -- Murdered

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Richmond Police Chief Rodney Monroe this afternoon confirmed that the human remains discovered yesterday in rural Mathews County are those of Taylor Marie Behl, the 17-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University student who had been missing since Sept. 5.

Monroe said identification of the badly decomposed remains was made through dental records provided to police by Behl's family.

The chief said further forensic tests will be needed before the medical examiner can determine the cause of Behl's death. He said he expects to file charges in the case, "but in the next three or four days, that's not going to happen."

"The scope of this investigation has narrowed significantly," said Monroe, speaking at a news conference held at the Mathews Sheriff's Office about 70 miles east of Richmond.

"Now it's a very targeted, focused investigation."

Responding to questions about Richmond amateur photographer Benjamin Fawley, Monroe for the first time said it was "not incorrect" to consider Fawley a suspect in Behl's death.

Fawley is currently in jail in Richmond on unrelated child pornography charges.

The chief also said that Jesse Schultz, a 22-year-old Richmonder arrested on drug possession charges after a police bloodhound allegedly detected his scent on Behl's abandoned car, is not considered a suspect at this time. Schultz has denied knowing Behl or having ever been in her car.

This afternoon, Schultz's lawyer, W. Joseph Owen III, said his client "has no idea why he was targeted. He is innocent of having anything at all to do with Taylor Behl's disappearance."

Owen also said Schultz "does not know Mr. Fawley. He has no relationship to Mr. Fawley."

Monroe confirmed that VCU detectives who located Behl's body were led to a farm in Mathews by Fawley's ex-girlfriend, whose family owns property adjacent to where the body was found.

The chief said that the girlfriend, whom he did not name, "has been someone we have spoken to for weeks." He said he did not know if the former girlfriend knew Behl.

Earlier in the day, Behl's mother told reporters from her home in Vienna that she believed the remains belonged to her daughter.

"I'm sure you can imagine the shock and horror I feel knowing that the body found is most likely my baby's," Janet Pelasara told reporters during a brief statement.

"My mind still cannot absorb the fact that someone could do something this cruel and heinous to my 17-year-old child," said Pelasara, appearing subdued and exhausted. "I am positive the authorities will bring these subhumans to justice, and I pray they receive the death penalty."

Behl's remains were found in a shallow grave in woods behind a barn on a private farm near the bayfront crossroads community of Diggs, about 70 miles from Richmond.

Behl, a graduate of James Madison High School in Vienna, had started her freshman year at VCU in late August. She was last seen leaving her dorm room around 10:20 the night of Sept. 5.

Wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt and jeans, the 5-foot-6, 135-pound brunette left her dorm room with car keys, student ID, cell phone and less than $40 cash, telling her roommate she was going out skateboarding with friends and would return in several hours.

On Wednesday, VCU detectives drove to Mathews after an ex-girlfriend of Fawley's identified a picture shown to her as being taken near her family's property in the rural coastal county.

After a search of the land, the detectives discovered human remains along a ravine in woods behind a barn on an adjacent property. Sources said clothing found at the scene matched clothing Behl was believed to be wearing the night she disappeared.

Fawley, 38, who met Behl through his ex-roommate back in February, has admitted to having a sexual relationship with her and said he last saw her at 9:30 the night she vanished.

The following day, Fawley filed a report with police claiming that he was robbed and abducted in Richmond by unknown assailants just eight hours later, driven to a remote location and dumped on a dirt road.

Investigators are reviewing his statement for inconsistencies in comparison to a description of the incident posted by Fawley on one of his Web logs.

In that posting, he attributed his alleged attack to friends of his ex-girlfriend -- the same woman police said identified the Fawley photo that led police to Mathews County.

"We certainly believe that the strongest suspect is the person they have in custody," said Pelasara's attorney, George Peterson, referring to Fawley. He said the family would begin to make funeral arrangements.

Fawley's attorney, Chris Collins, last night declined comment.

During her brief prepared statement, Pelasara expressed gratitude to all who had helped and supported her over the past month of searching for her daughter.

" . . . Whether it was time spent or money contributed, or most comforting, your prayers, thank you from the bottom of my sad and broken heart," she said.

VCU President Eugene P. Trani said, "Our overwhelming sympathy goes to Taylor's parents, Janet Pelasara and Matt Behl, and to Taylor's entire family and her friends. We share in their grief.

"Taylor was not with us very long, a few short weeks, as a freshman at VCU," Trani said in a statement. "Regardless, she was part of our university family and we feel her loss."



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