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Alexis Murphy’s mother said life is still stuck on the day her daughter didn’t come home.
DANIEL LIN | Special to The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress
Laura Murphy, mother of missing Nelson County teen Alexis Murphy, breaks into tears as she delivers a statement Monday.
ANDREW SHURTLEFF | The Daily Progress
Troy Brown, father of Alexis Murphy, talks about about his hope and a keeping a positive attitude during the search for his missing daughter Wednesday afternoon at her home in Shipman.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Nearly a month has passed since 17-year-old Alexis Murphy was reported missing, but for Alexis’ mother, Laura, every day bears Aug. 4’s date.
“I’m still stuck on Sunday,” she said. “That’s the day my mom called me and said Alexis didn’t come home.”
Laura Murphy was on the road, returning to Nelson County from a night shift with the U.S. Postal Service just outside of Richmond, when Alexis’ grandmother told her of the teen’s disappearance.
“I kept calling her phone. I think I pulled over three times to text her.”
When Alexis did not respond, her mother grew more worried.
Her family jokes about how often Alexis would fall asleep with her phone in her hand. She bounced back and forth between the living room and her bedroom carrying it, dragging a long extension cord behind her to charge the phone.
“Her phone was like her lifeline,” said Angela Taylor, Alexis’ aunt.
A month later, Laura Murphy waits to hear her daughter’s voice. She believes someday she will travel down the gravel road to return to her Shipman home.
“In my heart, I still think she’s alive.”
Alexis was last seen Aug. 3 at the Liberty gas station off U.S. 29 in Lovingston. She told her family she was headed to Lynchburg to get hair extensions for her senior portrait. Aside from her phone, Laura Murphy said her daughter devoted herself to clothes and her hair.
“Alexis would stay up till two, three o’clock in the morning, knowing she had school, just to do her hair.”
In their younger years, Alexis would lay out clothes for her older brother Avery. Alexis continued to play the role of fashion consultant for her 6-year-old brother, Cameron.
“She loved clothes,” Laura Murphy said. “She definitely wanted to model.”
After getting her driver’s license, Alexis sometimes drove to Lynchburg to hunt for vintage clothes. Laura Murphy said her daughter often went with friends, but had reservations about venturing out alone.
“She’d call me when she got where she was going. She was the type of person who was scared.”
Alexis passed many summer days with her family, talking with cousins on the patio, as toys of the younger relatives littered the yard.
Since her disappearance, the close-knit family has felt a gap where Alexis should be.
“Words cannot express it,” her father, Troy Brown, said. “You’re used to hearing the humming or the cords dragging.”
Trina Murphy, Alexis’ great-aunt, said she misses the sound of Alexis’ boots across the floor.
“She didn’t pick up her feet. You’d hear her coming through, shuffling.”
Laura Murphy said she longs to hear her daughter laugh again. Alexis spent many evenings in her room, watching comedy shows on television.
“I could hear her dying laughing through the walls.”
Since Alexis disappeared, the search has consumed their lives. Laura Murphy has not returned to work since that Aug. 4 drive home. She said she cannot focus on anything else until her daughter comes home.
Taylor said she has slept little since the search began.
“I cannot shut my brain off enough to get sleep.”
Focused on search
The Murphy family described the search for Alexis as a roller coaster with brief moments of relief along the way. Laura Murphy said the FBI’s involvement in the investigation into Alexis’ disappearance has offered some comfort.
“From day one, they said there’s stuff we’re not able to tell you,” she said. “I want to know more, but I know that they’re doing their job.”
“We’re fortunate to have such a talented team assembled. We’re very thankful,” Trina Murphy added.
The family said a moment of elation came Aug. 6 when investigators found Alexis’ sedan in the parking lot of a Charlottesville movie theater off U.S. 29.
“We were all bouncing around in here. Phones were going off,” Trina Murphy said. “It’s something to hold on to until the next thing.”
The next thing came days later, Aug. 11, when investigators arrested 48-year-old Randy Taylor in connection with Alexis’ disappearance .
“My heart is still heavy, but that lifted a weight off of it,” Laura Murphy said.
Taylor has been charged with one count of abduction, though search crews have yet to find Alexis.
“If there is one thing I’d love to do, I want to talk with him one-on-one, from a mother to father,” Laura Murphy said of Taylor. “I’d love to talk to him and ask where she is. He has to have a heart somewhere.”
The family said an arrest extinguished the possibility for them that Alexis had run away.
“I think all of us held on to that she needed a break, or maybe she was with a friend,” Trina Murphy said.
Taylor was denied bond in Nelson County Juvenile and Domestic Court on Aug. 20. Trina Murphy was the lone representative of the family to attend the hearing.
She said the experience was highly emotional and that a sheriff’s deputy sat next to her.
For the past month, people in Nelson County and nationwide have worked to offer some sense of comfort to the Murphy family.
Family members and friends pour through the Shipman house every day.
“I don’t think we’ve cooked a meal in this house in four weeks,” Trina Murphy said.
On Aug. 24, a benefit car show in Roseland raised more than $5,000 for the family, since Laura Murphy has stayed home from work. Her co-workers have donated their sick leave to cover her absence.
“They have really been wonderful through all of this.”
Media outlets from across the country have reached out to the Murphy family to tell Alexis’ story.
“It definitely was a blessing to get that much exposure,” Trina Murphy said. “I think Alexis has just kind of become the poster child for missing kids. Everybody can relate to her. She could be anybody’s daughter.”
Trina Murphy said one morning she received a call from an unfamiliar number which turned out to be “Good Morning America.” Since then, family members have been interviewed on national airwaves by Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell and others.
In an interview with Velez-Mitchell, the family encountered Gil Harrington, the mother of Morgan Harrington, who disappeared in 2009 outside John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. Her remains were found a year later in Albemarle County.
“She just said to never give up hope,” Angela Taylor said.
Once Alexis is found, Trina Murphy and Taylor said they would like to work with Gil Harrington’s organization, Help Save the Next Girl, to inform young people and deter potential abductions.
“I feel like this has pushed my life entirely in a different direction, like I have a larger purpose here,” Trina Murphy said. “This is absolutely your worst nightmare.”
As they wait, the Murphy family takes comfort in sharing stories about Alexis and planning how to celebrate her return.
Alexis hopes to attend college after graduating from Nelson County High School. She was focusing on Lynchburg College, Longwood University, or Radford University — Taylor’s alma mater.
“To take her down there and walk her around campus, I feel in my heart that I will still get that chance,” Taylor said.
Laura Murphy said Alexis’ room remains unchanged, with her clothes sprawled across the floor, just as she left it.
“Everything of hers is just the way it is. I haven’t touched it.”
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