Body Identified as Missing Student's
Friday, October 7, 2005
MATHEWS COUNTY, Va., Oct. 6 -- In the end, a photograph of an abandoned farmhouse, posted on a Web site, led police to the remains of missing college student Taylor Marie Behl.
After a month of news conferences, hundreds of leads and national television coverage, the photo provided the missing puzzle piece in the disappearance of Behl, 17, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
A former girlfriend of one of the last people to see Behl, Ben Fawley, recognized the farmhouse and trailer surrounded by tall weeds in his photograph. The woman led police to the site adjacent to her family's rural property in a coastal area 70 miles east of Richmond, and they began walking the heavily wooded area. They soon detected a strong odor.
"And there were the remains," Richmond Police Chief Rodney D. Monroe said Thursday.
In a ditch off a narrow dirt road, police saw the head and a leg of a small person partially buried and so badly decomposed that they were not sure whether the body belonged to a man or woman.
The medical examiner used dental records Wednesday night to confirm that the remains were Behl's. Investigators need to conduct more forensic tests to determine the cause of death, FBI Special Agent Don Thompson said.
The identification of Behl's remains fell on the birthday of her mother, Janet Pelasara.
"My mind still cannot absorb the fact that someone could do something this cruel and heinous to my 17-year-old child," Pelasara said during a news conference outside her Vienna home.
No one has been charged in Behl's death. But Monroe said he expects charges to be filed soon.
"We have a very focused, targeted approach," Monroe said. "The scope of this investigation has narrowed significantly."
Fawley, 38, an unemployed amateur photographer who had a sexual relationship with Behl, is being held on unrelated charges. After a search of his apartment, police arrested Fawley on Sept. 23 on 16 counts of possession of child pornography. His attorney, Chris Collins, did not return two calls placed to his office Thursday.
Police found the critical photograph that led them to her remains on one of Fawley's Web sites, where he had posted a gallery of his digital snapshots.