Slain Teen's Mother Lashes Out

Janet Pelasara, Taylor Behl's mother, with her attorney, George Peterson, left, and Bubba Bates, a family friend, after her daughter's funeral.
Janet Pelasara, Taylor Behl's mother, with her attorney, George Peterson, left, and Bubba Bates, a family friend, after her daughter's funeral. (By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)
By Tara Bahrampour
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 15, 2005

As hundreds of mourners poured out of the funeral yesterday for Taylor Marie Behl, her mother broke down and lashed out at the person who killed the college freshman and left her body in a ravine east of Richmond.

"May the courts see fit to give him the death penalty so he may continue his downward spiral into the depths of hell," a sobbing Janet Pelasara said in a brief statement to reporters outside the Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna.

Pelasara's 17-year-old daughter disappeared on Labor Day, two weeks after starting her freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Her badly decomposed body was discovered last week, partially buried in a rural area of Mathews County, about 90 miles from the college. The cause of her death has not been determined.

No one has been charged in her death, but Richmond police have called one of Behl's friends, Benjamin Fawley, 38, a suspect. Fawley, an amateur photographer who is being held on unrelated charges, gave a two-hour statement to Richmond police Wednesday about his role in the case, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Fawley's attorney, Chris Collins, confirmed that his client had, against his advice, discussed the case with investigators, the paper reported. "He has been wanting to talk to the police," Collins told the paper. "He was pretty frantic yesterday [Wednesday] to talk to the police. I advised him not to talk, and he didn't take my advice."

Collins did not disclose what Fawley told police. Messages to Collins's office yesterday were not returned.

Fawley, who had a sexual relationship with Behl and was one of the last people to see her alive, is in jail on unrelated firearms and child pornography charges.

In Behl's home town yesterday, under a late-morning drizzle, about 400 people packed into the Vienna church, some spilling into the foyer when the sanctuary could hold no more. Some had never met Behl but had followed the four-week search for her in the national media.

Inside, a closed casket was draped with a cream-colored cloth and a gold runner and surrounded with candles and flowers. A bouquet of red and white roses stood above a studio portrait of a smiling Behl, who would have turned 18 Thursday.

The mourners included many teenagers and college-age students. Some wept silently as Behl's stepfather read a poem by W.H. Auden, "Funeral Blues," and recalled a vivacious child who would show up with new pets, including two kittens she named Quincy and Spot, and a white rat.

A girlfriend of Behl's recalled that "Taylor would make you feel like everything was going to be okay, just when everything was going wrong."

Another relative recalled how Behl loved the crescent moon and exhorted listeners to think of her when they saw it. She spoke of the closeness between Behl and her mother, saying, "Taylor and her mom were like the Gilmore Girls."

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