Taylor Marie Behl would have turned 18 yesterday, a milestone the slain college student eagerly anticipated and wrote about in her online journal. Instead, dozens of relatives, friends and strangers filed into a funeral home in Vienna to bid farewell, one week after her remains were found in a ravine east of Richmond.
Amid a steady drizzle, mourners said they offered their condolences yesterday afternoon to members of Behl's family, who stood against a wall adorned with flower arrangements and photographs of the smiling teenager. Behl was two weeks into her first year at Virginia Commonwealth University when she vanished Sept. 5.
Among the many visitors who went in and out of the Money and King Funeral Home on East Maple Avenue were people whose only connection to Behl came from the daily media coverage of her disappearance and death.
"I can't stand it. How does this happen to a young girl like that?" said Samantha Murat, a longtime Vienna resident who attended the closed-casket viewing with her sister. "It's just so very sad. I feel like she is one of my own. I watched her every night [on television]. I saw her parents inside. I told them I didn't know her, but I feel like I know her. I told them she's in heaven right now. What can you say to parents? [There are] no words."
Behl, a June graduate of James Madison High School in Vienna, disappeared on Labor Day. One of the last people to see her was Ben Fawley, 38, an amateur photographer with whom she was having a sexual relationship, according to authorities. One of his former girlfriends recognized a photograph he had taken and posted online, and she led police to the property, which is adjacent to land her family owns. There, detectives found Behl's remains.
Because her body was badly decomposed, an autopsy was unable to determine immediately how she died. Further tests are needed, a police source said this week, because her body had "no obvious trauma, no gunshot wound, no stabbing, no blunt force." Results of toxicology tests have not been received.
Fawley, the father of two young children, told police that he was abducted several hours after Behl was last seen. In a report filed with Richmond police the next day, he said he was struck, pushed into a van and driven to an unknown location. His camera, tripod and $20 were taken, he told police, but not his wallet or credit card.
Fawley's credit card was used to buy gas in New Kent County the night Behl disappeared, a source close to the case said this week. New Kent County is midway between Richmond and Mathews County, the sparsely populated area were Behl's body was found.
Fawley has been jailed since Sept. 23 on 16 counts of possession of child pornography. He was charged last Friday with illegal possession of a firearm while a convicted felon.
Fawley has several convictions in his home town of Doylestown, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, for crimes including petty larceny, theft and aggravated assault, court records show. He has served time in Virginia for assault and battery, court records show. Because some of his convictions were for felonies, he is prohibited from owning a firearm.
Fawley's attorney, Chris Collins, did not return a phone call to his office yesterday.
No charges have been filed in Behl's case, but police said they consider Fawley a suspect.
Staff writer Sari Horwitz contributed to this report.
Taylor Marie Behl would have turned 18 yesterday.