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Alexis Murphy’s family is determined to keep the late teenager’s story alive in hopes that it will save a life.
The 17-year-old was last seen at a gas station in Lovingston, Va., and was reported missing on August 3, 2013. Her car was found several days later in a parking lot in the county of Albemarle.
The kidnapping is explored on Oxygen’s “Final Moments,” a true-crime documentary series that dives deep into a victim’s final interactions, helping law enforcement establish an extended timeline, leading to justice. Produced by “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf, the show features interviews with investigators, relatives and others closely connected to the cases being profiled.
Murphy’s great aunt, Trina Murphy, told Fox News Digital she was compelled to speak out and describe the impact of the crime on her home and how such a disappearance could happen anywhere.
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“My niece was beautiful and humble,” Trina said. “She was physically very beautiful, but she didn’t know it. She was just a kid who talked to everyone. She had friends in all social groups. She loved her family, especially her brothers. She loved to do her hair and makeup. She was just your typical teenager.”
And like many teenagers, Murphy had an active social media presence, especially on Twitter.
“I think a lot of people confused her social media with her real life,” Trina shared. “She was very different in real life. She was shy. She didn’t necessarily like being the center of attention. But every time she was on camera, her alter ego took over, so to speak. She was funny and charismatic. She had a big following. I think people were drawn to her spirit.
“And to be honest, I was fine with that,” Trina added of Murphy’s social media accounts. “I think it’s normal for teenagers now. I know my niece and how she was raised. Of course, we have to be careful with social media. We have to be aware of all the interactions our children have, whether whether online or in person. But at first everyone thought it was caused by someone on social media. It turned out to be someone right in our backyard.”
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Trina said she last saw her niece on a Saturday, a day before the disappearance. They exchanged heartfelt vows over a barbecue.
“I told her I loved her and would see her later,” Trina said.
It was the last time Trina saw her niece alive. On Sunday, she received a phone call from a loved one who revealed the teenager had not returned home from a shopping trip.
“I was immediately concerned because it was completely out of place,” Trina said. “We had iPhones, and there was an app that said ‘Find My’ to locate a phone. I typed in its number, and it gave us the coordinates of where we started our search at the I didn’t know it was within a seven mile radius of where the phone last rang to a tower. Where we started our search was exactly seven miles from the residence of his captor.
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“The first law enforcement officer who showed up on the scene suggested that Alexis may have gotten away,” she shared. “I immediately silenced him. My niece had no reason to run away.”
Investigators wondered if Murphy’s disappearance could have been associated with the “Route 29 Stalker”. According to Virginia State Police, Alicia Showalter Reynolds was driving from Baltimore to Charlottesville, Va. in a Mercury Tracer. She was last seen alive on March 2, 1996, driving on a rural stretch of Route 29 outside of Culpeper, Virginia, about 90 minutes southwest of Washington, DC.
A witness saw the 25-year-old’s car parked on the shoulder. A white man with light brown hair aged 35 to 45 had pulled up in a dark van. His body was found two months later. After that, several women reported that a man stopped them or tried to stop them on Route 29. Reynolds’ murder remains unsolved.
Other high-profile cases linked to the freeway include the 2009 murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. The 20-year-old was killed by Jesse Matthew, Jr. He also murdered UVA student Hannah Graham, 18, in 2014. Matthew pleaded guilty to both murders and was sentenced to four life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.
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Others suspected a stalker followed Murphy’s social media and eventually confronted her in person.
“Everything had to be considered,” Trina said. “And we thought about a lot of things. Was she involved in sex trafficking? Did she have an online stalker? Was it someone she went to school with? Was it someone we know? A human being just disappeared off the face of the earth. You’re going to be thinking about a lot of things and grabbing every opportunity that comes your way.”
The Virginia State Police and FBI investigation resulted in the arrest of Randy Taylor, charged with Murphy’s kidnapping. Taylor was captured on surveillance video holding Murphy’s door at a gas station. He was convicted of murdering her and sentenced to two life sentences after evidence, including Murphy’s DNA on a bloody shirt and fingernail, was linked to him.
Trina said she “wasn’t worried” about Taylor walking because he was on trial for murder and Murphy was still missing.
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“I had the utmost faith in law enforcement,” she said. “They investigated this matter thoroughly. I was very confident that they would be successful.”
In February 2021, seven years after Murphy’s disappearance, the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office, the Richmond Division of the FBI and the Appomattox Field Office of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation announced that they had located Murphy’s body. Her remains were located in December 2020 on private property along Highway 29, near where she had stopped to refuel.
“A myriad of things went through my mind,” Trina reflected on Taylor’s sentencing. “I was partly relieved. There was anger, of course. I was grateful that he was finally off the streets. Now he wouldn’t inflict the same pain on anyone else But the grieving process began when Alexis was found.
“We knew it was likely she wasn’t alive, but we didn’t have that confirmation. And when we finally got her, we felt like we lost her again. It’s been hard to come back to this past trauma, everything we’ve been through for the past seven years. We’re trying to heal as best we can. But the pain never goes away.
Trina hopes her niece’s story will encourage young people and their parents to be aware of their surroundings, no matter where they live.
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“It really can happen to anyone at any time,” she said. “It does not discriminate. My niece was abducted in a small rural town in Virginia in the middle of the day while it was still light outside. I hope the young people and their parents watching will be more careful and more aware of their surroundings. Pay close attention to your children. You can never be too careful.
The episode of “Final Moments” titled “Death of an Influencer” airs Sunday, April 3 at 8:00 p.m. on Oxygen. The Associated Press contributed to this report.