Killer leads to Alexis Murphy’s remains, could face charges in murder of second Va. woman

Randy Allen Taylor, who is serving two life sentences for the 2013 murder of 17-year-old Alexis Murphy in Virginia, led investigators to her remains,and could now face prosecution for the 2010 murder of 19-year-old Samantha Clarke, WTOP has learned.

Fifty-five-year-old Taylor was given two life sentences for Murphy’s death. Initially a no-body murder case, Taylor recently led investigators to where he had hidden Murphy’s remains in Nelson County, Virginia — more than seven years after her disappearance.

In October 2020, Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office sought, and was granted, two transportation orders to have Taylor taken from Virginia Red Onion Prison — a state “supermax” facility in Wise County — to the Virginia State Police office in the town of Lebanon.

Alexis Murphy (File photo)

While in state police custody, Taylor was brought to Nelson County, near the intersection of U.S. Route 29 and Stagebridge Road, in Lovingston. On private property, not far from modest homes, trailers and sheds along the state road through the tiny town, Taylor led investigators to where they would find Murphy’s remains, according to sources familiar with the search.

Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Daniel Rutherford would not comment on an inquiry from WTOP asking whether Taylor had pointed out Murphy’s remains.

“We signed off on two transportation orders. We made no promises, and have not changed a single thing about the two life sentences he got in Nelson,” Rutherford said. “We don’t negotiate with murderers.”

Red Onion Prison is considered the state’s most secure facility. It also houses Beltway sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and Jesse Leroy Matthew — convicted of the Charlottesville murders of Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington, who was sentenced to Red Onion but is currently in a medium-security prison for cancer treatment.

In announcing the recovery and identification of Murphy’s remains on Feb. 17, Nelson County Sheriff David Hill made no mention of how they were located.

Taylor has been focus in search for Samantha Ann Clarke

Almost three years before murdering Alexis Murphy, Randy Taylor was already the focus of the search for Samantha Ann Clarke, who was last seen leaving her mother’s home in Orange, Virginia, on Sept. 13, 2010.

Taylor and Clarke had met several days earlier, and police have said he called her several times on the night she disappeared. Taylor has said he was trying to warn Clarke that another woman planned to assault Clarke.

In 2011, Orange police charged Taylor with being a felon in possession of a gun after planting a tracking device on his car. But a Greene County Circuit Court judge ruled law enforcement had conducted a “warrantless search and seizure,” and the charges were subsequently dropped.

Samantha Clarke has been missing since 2010. (Courtesy National Missing and Unidentified Persons)

Taylor has never been charged in connection with Clarke’s disappearance.

Within weeks of Taylor leading investigators to Murphy’s remains  Orange Police Chief James Fenwick and Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney Diana O’Connell held a January news conference and announced Clarke’s disappearance had been reclassified as an abduction and homicide investigation.

While acknowledging Taylor was known to have been one of the last to see Clarke, Fenwick declined to elaborate on what led to the reclassification beyond attributing it to “new information and advances in investigative and forensic technology.”

Fenwick wouldn’t say whether Clarke’s remains had been recovered, although sources familiar with the search say they have not been found.

O’Connell did not respond to WTOP inquiries seeking information about whether her office planned to indict Taylor in connection with Clarke’s disappearance.

During his 2014 sentencing for Murphy’s murder, Taylor, through his then-attorney Michael Hallahan, offered to tell investigators where Murphy’s remains were if the jury-recommended two life sentences were reduced to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors and Murphy’s family opposed the offer, and the judge imposed the sentences.

The Nelson and Orange County prosecutors would not disclose the new technology that led to the reclassification of Clarke’s case as an abduction and homicide, or whether Taylor has a new defense attorney.

Asked whether the new information and forensic evidence elevates Taylor’s status from a person of interest to a suspect in Clarke’s disappearance, Orange Police Chief Fenwick didn’t respond.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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