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The FBI has not revealed where the phone, one of several being examined, was located.
Randy Allen Taylor
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
The cellphone of missing Nelson County teenager Alexis Murphy has been found, the FBI announced Tuesday.
The 17-year-old last was seen at the Liberty gas station in Lovingston on Aug. 3, when family members thought she left her Shipman home to get hair extensions for her senior portrait.
Alexis’ family has said her white iPhone 4 was like her lifeline. Family members joked about how she would fall asleep with the phone in her hand.
“It just really verifies what we already knew. She did not leave of her own accord,” said Trina Murphy, Alexis’ great-aunt, on Tuesday. “We have mixed emotions about it.”
Sgt. Kevin Davis, of the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, said Alexis’ heavy phone use should prove helpful.
“If she’s a typical youth where her phone is her lifeline, that will reveal a lot,” said Davis, who is not directly involved in the case. “More than likely, they’ll be able to get a lot of useful information off of her cellphone.”
Murphy said Tuesday the FBI took several phones to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, though investigators have not revealed to the family where Alexis’ phone was found.
“They’re being specifically tight-lipped about that,” she said.
Murphy hopes her niece’s phone will serve as a tremendous tool in helping investigators find the missing teenager.
“Obviously, this is huge,” she said. “It’s a big piece of the puzzle.”
Davis said different features on a cellphone, especially pictures, can help investigators build a timeline. Some phones, particularly smart phones, have a feature called “geotagging.”
Geotagging will embed coordinates of where a photograph was taken within that image.
“It’s information that gets attached to pictures,” Davis said. “Geotagging is probably the biggest piece of information.”
Alexis’ call and text message history should reveal whom she was in touch with before her disappearance.
However, Davis said, Alexis’ phone may not point directly to the missing teen’s whereabouts.
“It kind of is just like interviewing another witness,” he said. “The witness can only give investigators new leads.”
Investigators had asked for the public’s help in finding Alexis’ phone. The FBI did not specify Tuesday where or when the phone was found, only saying it was one of “several phones … recovered during the course of this investigation.”
Authorities have conducted multiple searches during their investigation, including in the Charlottesville area, in the Rockfish River and at the home of Randy Allen Taylor, located off U.S. 29 north of Lovingston.
Taylor, 48, was arrested Aug. 11 and charged with abduction in connection with her disappearance.
During Saturday’s search of the river, authorities found a red sweater. However, Nelson County Investigator Billy Mays said Tuesday the sweater did not belong to Alexis. He declined to go into further detail.
Taylor has been held without bond since his arrest. His attorney, Michael Hallahan, maintains his client’s innocence, saying Alexis left Taylor’s home with another man the night she disappeared.
Alexis’ family has disputed the claim and feels finding the teen’s phone points to Taylor.
“There was no rhyme or reason for her phone to be in that area,” Murphy said.
In an FBI news release Tuesday morning, authorities said “absolutely no further information” will be released aside from the positive identification of Alexis’ phone.
“This sole release of information is only being made to advise the public that we no longer need assistance looking for that one item,” the FBI said.
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