VCU Student's Friend Faces Porn Charges

By Jamie Stockwell and Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 24, 2005

A 38-year-old photographer who was one of the last people to see missing college student Taylor Marie Behl was arrested yesterday in Richmond and charged with 16 counts of possessing child pornography, police said.

Benjamin Fawley was apprehended at his apartment, blocks from the Virginia Commonwealth University campus where Behl, 17, was last seen. Fawley told his attorney that he had a romantic relationship with Behl, who is from Vienna.

Police said search warrants also were served on Fawley, and again at his apartment, to search for anything that might belong to Behl, including her cell phone, jewelry, her identification and clothing. The search also was to include license plates, which he collected, according to his various Web sites. Ohio license plates that had been reported stolen in Richmond before Behl's disappearance were found on her car.

Fingerprints and DNA samples also were taken from Fawley, police said. Fawley has not been charged in her case, police said.

A message left for Fawley's attorney, Chris Collins, received no response.

Fawley has been questioned several times about Behl's Sept. 5 disappearance. He saw her twice that day, including an hours-long visit at his apartment on North Hancock Street shortly after she returned to Richmond from Vienna, where she spent the Labor Day weekend.

Hours after he said he dropped the teenager off at her dorm, Fawley filed a police report saying he had been abducted and robbed, though he was unable to provide specific details about his attackers or the area where he said they dropped him off.

"It is coincidental that he was kidnapped and abducted during the same time frame of Taylor's disappearance," Richmond Police Chief Rodney D. Monroe said yesterday of Fawley's police report. "[Behl] was at his home prior to her disappearance, so quite naturally we want to look for evidence to her being there."

According to an affidavit filed Tuesday in Richmond Circuit Court, investigators searched Fawley's residence that morning for "any and all images, documents, log files . . . which pertain to, or are used in the facilitation, possession, production, publication, sale or possession with the intent to distribute child pornography or other sexually explicit items involving children." Seven computers and several hard drives and CDs were seized.

Behl's mother praised yesterday's arrest and said she remains convinced that Fawley has not told authorities everything he knows about her daughter's whereabouts.

"I hope that he knows more, and I hope that now that he's behind bars that he will tell authorities what he knows," Janet Pelasara said in a telephone interview from her hotel in Richmond, where she has been staying since Behl was reported missing.

"We're happy that he has been arrested," she continued, "because he has broken several laws that he's admitted to. We're glad he's going down, and I just hope this isn't the end."

Behl, a June graduate of James Madison High School in Vienna, was two weeks into her freshman year when she disappeared. Police said the case, which was upgraded to a criminal investigation eight days after she was last seen, has generated numerous leads. Although they did not initially suspect foul play, police said they believe that Behl might have been abducted.

Fawley, a father of two young children, has told his attorney that he knows nothing about Behl's whereabouts, Collins said this week in an interview. Collins said his client last saw the teenager about 10 p.m. on Labor Day, when he said he walked her to her dorm after lending her a skateboard. She left about a half-hour later, after she found her roommate with a boyfriend. She took only her car keys, her cell phone and about $40 in cash.

Behl's vehicle, a 1997 white Ford Escort, was found a week ago, parked in a residential area about 1 1/2 miles from the downtown campus. But instead of its Virginia license plates, which had been broadcast nationwide, the car bore Ohio tags that had been reported stolen in Richmond about two months before Behl's disappearance.

On one of his several Web sites, Fawley listed collection of license plates as being among his many interests -- which also included girls with long hair, girls with dark hair, goth girls and making love. At one point, he owned a Dodge Tradesman 300, a blue van that he bought for $100 and that he named the Nowhere Van 4 because it was the fourth such vehicle he had purchased. On a site devoted to the van that he eventually plastered with dozens of bumper stickers, he wrote about his license plate collection:

"The inside of Nowhere Van 4 has enough room for most of my license plate collection," he wrote. "I am always looking for more tags. . . . I don't care if its old, new or a dubble. I just collect the things."

Fawley met Behl early this year, and the two became online friends. They posted messages to each other on their blogs. They met again in April, when Behl traveled to Richmond to visit VCU; she stayed at Fawley's apartment because his roommate at the time was a friend of hers from Vienna. On that trip, Fawley took photographs of Behl, fully clothed, and posted them on his Web site. The photos were removed shortly after her disappearance.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company