May 8, 2014
On Thursday afternoon, the Liberty gas station in Lovingston was buzzing with the news many people have been waiting for for nine months -- a conviction in the disappearance and death of Nelson County teenager Alexis Murphy.
The teen was last documented alive in a surveillance video at the gas station.
A jury found 48-year-old Randy Taylor guilty of murder and abduction in the case that has received widespread attention.
It could have happened to anyone, said Murphy's grandfather, Tony Taylor, who has no relation to the defendant. He called Thursday's verdict "justice," and while it's not complete closure for the family, it's a step in the right direction until her body is found.
It's a sentiment shared by many community members.
"We hope that eventually they'll be able to find the body. There used to be a saying -- the village raises the child," said Nelson County resident James Shelton. "When someone loses a child, I feel like we all lose a child."
Resident Tony Adams said the case not only hit home for him because he, too, has a daughter, but because a relative was called to testify.
"It's been rough, especially for a lot of people who've been here and my cousin who they tried to pull into it," said Adams.
Adams was talking about Dameon Bradley, the third person Randy Taylor said was involved in Murphy's disappearance, only to be cleared.
When he heard Taylor was found guilty, his first thought was, "thank goodness."
In the Food Lion parking lot near the Liberty gas station, Brian Coffey's car was still decorated with a decal Thursday honoring Murphy.
Inside a pink heart, the number 9 -- Murphy's volleyball number -- and the words pray, faith and love. Under it, #findalexismurphy.
"The community has actually gotten stronger as a whole. We're more close as a community," said Coffey.
Coffey helped design the decals. More than 250 can be found across the county. Those, along with countless posters and pink ribbons, are constant reminders the search for Murphy is not over.
"It's still sad, but we know she's watching us and she's with us all the time," said Coffey.
But now that someone has been convicted in the case, it's a chance for some closure for the family and a chance for this community to slip out of the spotlight.
"We enjoy the setting and surroundings with the mountains and the beauty and we enjoy our neighbors," said Shelton. "We should be allowed to live in peace and a little bit of security and raise our children and watch them grow up and even enjoy their lives."