Police Told Death an Accident, Lawyer Says

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By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 16, 2005

Benjamin Fawley, a suspect in the death of Taylor Marie Behl, told police that the Vienna teenager died accidentally while they were having a sexual encounter, an attorney representing Behl's mother said yesterday.

Her grieving mother disputed the account.

"Let's be clear -- Ben Fawley murdered my daughter," Janet Pelasara said during a hastily arranged news conference outside her attorney's McLean office. "His claim that it was accidental is just one more perversion of the truth in his ever-changing web of lies."

Fawley, 38, an amateur photographer who is in a Richmond jail on unrelated charges, spoke to investigators for two hours Wednesday about his role in Behl's death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Details of the statement were first reported by the newspaper yesterday.

Fawley told investigators that he had consensual sex with Behl in her car parked near a beach in rural Mathews County, Va., the night of Sept. 5 and that he accidentally choked her, according to George O. Peterson, Pelasara's attorney. Fawley also told police he panicked after Behl died and dumped her body in a ravine, the paper reported.

Pelasara called Fawley "a big, fat liar" and said she was speaking for the 17-year-old daughter she buried Friday.

The notion that Behl and Fawley were lovers is wrong, Pelasara said. Behl had sex with Fawley once in April and decided she did not want an intimate relationship with him, her mother said.

"She did it once out of curiosity and then didn't want anything to do with him," according to Pelasara, who said she learned about her daughter's April encounter with Fawley through conversations with Behl's closest friends. "He had a dark side, and Taylor wasn't a dark side kind of girl."

"It is apparent that my daughter died a violent and unspeakable death at the hands of Ben Fawley that night and was not a willing participant," Pelasara said.

Fawley has a history of violence toward girlfriends, Peterson said. "Ben Fawley has a very significant past," Peterson said. "He has a violent nature. He choked previous girlfriends."

Fawley is in jail on unrelated firearms and child pornography charges.

Fawley's attorney, Christopher Collins of Richmond, declined to comment yesterday but said he will seek an order to prevent investigators and attorneys from talking to reporters. Richmond Police Chief Rodney D. Monroe did not return telephone or electronic messages.

Behl disappeared on Labor Day, two weeks after starting at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Her body was discovered nearly two weeks ago in Mathews County, about 90 miles from the college. An autopsy has been performed, but the cause of her death has not been determined.

No one has been charged in her death.

Behl's disappearance drew national attention, in large part because of her mother's determination to attract news coverage.

"If it does happen to your child, beg the media, be nice to the media, use them, let them use you," Pelasara said yesterday.

"The media kept Taylor's face out there and kept the story going. If every missing child had that kind of coverage, maybe there would be fewer missing children."

About 400 people, many of them Behl's childhood friends but some strangers who had been following the news coverage, packed a Vienna church for her funeral Friday.


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