Who was Alexis Murphy? Viriginia teen's remains identified 8 years after she was murdered on infamous Route 29
Murphy drove along the Route 29 corridor, where a number of young women have been known to go missing and later found dead since 1996
NELSON COUNTY, VIRGINIA: Alexis Tiara Murphy, a teenager from Virginia, set out for a shopping trip before the start of her senior year in August 2013. Heading to Lynchburg, located about an hour from her home in Shipman, the high school senior told her considerably large following on Twitter that she was "burg bound!"
Murphy drove along the Route 29 corridor, where a number of young women have been known to go missing and later found dead since 1996. People reported how Jesse Matthew Jr pleaded guilty to the murders of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20, and UVA student Hannah Graham in 2009 and 2014 respectively.
Meanwhile, police believe several other young women who disappeared along the corridor may have been victims of an unidentified serial killer dubbed the "Route 29 stalker." Investigators believe the killer is also behind the murder of Johns Hopkins grad student Alicia Showalter Reynolds, who went missing in 1996 while driving from Baltimore, Maryland, to Charlottesville to visit her mother. While she was later found dead, the case remains unsolved.
On August 3, 2013, Murphy became another Route 29 vicim after halting at a gas station in Lovingston on her way to Lynchburg. Randy Allen Taylor, a man who was captured on surveillance footage holding a door for Murphy at the gas station, was convicted of her murder in 2014. Taylor received two life sentences after DNA evidence found on a bloody shirt and a fingernail linked him to Murphy, according to The Roanoke Times.
However, the victim's body was never found, until now. Officials from the Nelson County Sheriff's Office, the FBI's Richmond Division and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation's Appomattox Field Office announced on Wednesday, February 17 that they had recovered Murphy's remains — seven years after she went missing on Route 29.
The sheriff's office said in a release how authorities had continued to search for her over the years, "with law enforcement expanding the search each time." Murphy's remains were located on December 3, 2020 at a "private property near Stagebridge Road, along Route 29 in Lovingston, near where she had stopped for gas," according to People. Her remains were sent for examination to the Central District Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, which positively identified them on February 5, per the report.
"With careful consideration for Alexis' family being paramount, notification to the community was delayed to allow them time to grieve and make proper arrangements," the release said. Murphy's family has asked for privacy, but acknowledged in a statement that it is "grateful for the continuing love, support, and prayers for Alexis and our family over the past 7 years."
"While we have been grieving the loss of Alexis since 2013, we remained hopeful that she would be found alive and well. Alexis was the fashionista, athlete, and joker of our family; we were blessed to have loved her for 17 years and her memory will continue to live on through us all," the family added. People also reported how Morgan Harrington's parents, Gil and Dan Harrington, had started a national non-profit, Help Save the Next Girl, to "spread safety information and prevent future crimes against young women," according to its website.
According to the magazine, Gil reached out to Murphy's mother to offer emotional support when her daughter went missing. "To me, there was an immediate bonding," Harrington said on the website. "There are very few people on the planet who know what this feels like. And she does. And I want to help her carry it if I can."