Wednesday, July 23 2014 11:41 AM EDT2014-07-23 15:41:14 GMT
Saturday August 03: Alexis Murphy left her home in Shipman, Virginia on Saturday evening, reportedly headed for Lynchburg. She tweeted "Burg Bound" to her twitter followers at 3:04 p.m. Saturday. According toFull Story
A timeline of events in the search for Alexis Murphy.Full Story
Day five of the trial of Randy Taylor, the man accused of abducting and killing 17-year-old Alexis Murphy, wrapped up Wednesday in Nelson County Circuit Court. Both the prosecution and the defense have rested their cases and the jury will return Thursday morning to deliberate.
Murphy was last seen on August 3. She left her home in Shipman, reportedly heading toward Lynchburg. Surveillance video shows her at the Liberty gas station in Lovingston around 7:15 that night. Authorities arrested Taylor, 48, on Sunday, August 11, and charged him with felony abduction in relation to the case. He was charged with first-degree murder on January 6.
The commonwealth rested its case Wednesday morning but not before testimony from one of Taylor’s fellow inmates at Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail, Wayne Buraker.
Buraker testified that in one of the first conversations he had with Taylor, Taylor told him "the first time I seen her I wanted to *expletive* her my way.” Buraker also testified that when he asked Taylor if he would have vacuumed up her hair, Taylor replied "oh yeah."
The defense painted the inmate as someone searching for fame and not credible. Buraker told the jury that he was not promised anything for his testimony and that none of the investigators asked him to approach Taylor.
Investigators also presented testimony Wednesday morning on the 20-plus searches conducted to try to find Alexis Murphy. One search was conducted a few weeks ago but no more evidence has been found.
The defense asked the judge to strike the abduction with intent to defile charge and both murder charges but the judge upheld all.
The defense called a total of 11 witnesses Wednesday in court.
One witness, a woman who works at the Charlottesville parking garage, said she saw Taylor and Murphy's car leave the garage - Murphy's first and then Taylor's - but she could not remember the date.
Two other women claimed that on August 3 they saw a young woman who resembled Murphy walking across the shopping center parking lot, where the Liberty gas station is located, with another female. They claim they saw the two women around 8:30 p.m., stating they know the time frame because one of them had saved their receipt from Food Lion.
The other witnesses were mostly young men and women who knew of or knew Alexis personally or via social media.
Brandon Gray, Murphy's cousin, said he was at a party on August 3 in Shipman. He had expected Murphy to show up, but says she never did.
Other friends and ex-boyfriends of Murphy's testified that it was out of character for her to not answer her phone or reply to text messages. Some also testified that it was unlike her to go anywhere without friends or family.
The defense focused on Murphy's social media use, asking most of the young men and women if they thought she was a different person on social media than she was in person.
Malaysia Page, Murphy's best friend and cousin, described Murphy as being 'more out there' with a 'more wild personality' on Twitter but said that she was very humble and a different person if you knew her personally.
The defense rested its case and again motioned for the judge to strike the intent to defile portion of the abduction charge Taylor faces and to drop both murder counts. The judge overruled both motions.
Before breaking for lunch, the judge, prosecution and defense all expressed that they would like to hand the case over to the jury by the end of the day Wednesday.
Closing arguments began after the lunch break Wednesday.
In the prosecution's closing arguments, the focus centered on the evidence in the case, Taylor's repeated lies, and that Murphy seemed happy with her life around the time of her disappearance.
The prosecution said that there is no evidence that Murphy left Taylor's camper alive. The prosecution also described Taylor as a "hunter looking for prey" and that Murphy was taken by Taylor to satisfy his sexual urges.
The prosecution said that Taylor "silenced" Murphy in order to make sure she wasn't going to be able to ever say what really happened.
The prosecution said that Taylor wants the jury to reward him for disposing the body but that they need to get justice for Murphy and her family by finding Taylor guilty on all charges. The prosecutor stressed the jury needs proof beyond a reasonable doubt - not all doubt.
The defense's closing arguments focused on a third party and the lack of evidence in the case.
The defense said 'they got the wrong man' and continued to reference a third party's involvement. The defense brought up Dameon Bradley's possible involvement again. Bradley testified in court Tuesday, saying he had never met Murphy, though he was Facebook friends with Murphy.
The defense questioned how the investigators did not find the shirt during their first search of Taylor's trailer. He also questioned how long it took for the investigators to locate Murphy's phone on Taylor's property.
The defense also said that the inmate's statement about Taylor's sexual urges for Murphy in jail was not credible and that he should "be hired by FBI on the spot." The defense said the inmate's statement was too convenient and that the inmate just wants a 'field trip' to talk to Nancy Grace.
Ultimately the defense argued that the evidence provided by the prosecution does not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Taylor abducted or murdered Murphy. The defense also mentioned the possibility of this being a case of human trafficking. The defense asked the jury to find Taylor not guilty on all charges.
In the prosecution's rebuttal, the shirt found in Taylor's camper along with Murphy's hair extensions were removed from evidence bags and shown to the jury. When the prosecution held the evidence before the jury he asked, 'no abduction and no murder?'
The prosecution said that people lie - not evidence - and asked again for the jury to find Taylor guilty on all charges.
Murphy's mother was seen crying in the courtroom after the prosecutor finished his rebuttal.
NBC29 legal analyst Bonnie Lepold says, in a circumstantial case like this one, the jury must consider whether the prosecution's evidence excluded every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. The defense then is trying to poke holes in the prosecution's case.
Lepold says we saw this play out in court Wednesday through the closing arguments. The prosecution focused on telling the jury to look at the evidence as a whole. Their task was to put together an unbroken chain of circumstantial evidence that establishes factors such as motive, opportunity, time, and place. Meanwhile, the defense wanted to spotlight that the evidence does not prove abduction or murder.
The jury must now methodically go through the instructions that are given in the elements of each offense.
“For instance, with first-degree murder, they're going to have to find premeditation, a specific intent to kill and they will have to go through each element and find that beyond a reasonable doubt, he is guilty of those before they can ultimately convict him,” Lepold said.
The jury requested that they be able to go home for the evening and start fresh in the morning. Deliberations will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Nelson County Circuit Court.
After court adjourned Wednesday, Alexis Murphy's aunt Trina Murphy said, "It feels like the last 10 months have come to this moment."
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