Alexis Murphy’s family is determined to keep the late teen’s story alive in hopes it will save a life.
The 17-year-old was last seen at a gas station in Lovingston, Virginia, and reported missing Aug. 3, 2013. Her car was found several days later in an Albemarle County parking lot.
The abduction is being explored on Oxygen’s "Final Moments," a true-crime docu-series that dives deep into a victim’s last interactions, which help law enforcement build an extensive timeline, leading to justice. Produced by Dick Wolf, the "Law & Order" creator, the show features interviews with investigators, loved ones 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 how the crime has impacted her home and how such a disappearance could occur anywhere.
"My niece was beautiful and humble," Trina said. "She was physically very beautiful, but she didn’t know that. She was just a kid who spoke to everybody. She had friends in every social group. She loved her family, especially her brothers. She loved doing hair and makeup. She was just your typical teenager."
And like many teens, Murphy had an active social media presence, specifically on Twitter.
"I think a lot of people confused her social media with her real life," Trina explained. "She was very different in real life. She was shy. She didn’t necessarily like to be the center of attention. But whenever she was in front of the camera, her alter ego took over, so to speak. She was funny and charismatic. She had a great following. I think people were drawn to her spirit.
"And to be honest, I was fine with it," Trina added about 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 need to be cautious with social media. We need to be mindful of all the interactions our children have, whether online or in person. But in the beginning, everyone thought this was caused by someone on social media. It turned out to be someone right in our backyard."
Trina said she last saw her niece on a Saturday, a day before the disappearance. They exchanged heartfelt wishes at a cookout.
"I told her I loved her and I would see her later," said Trina.
It was the last time Trina saw her niece alive. On Sunday, she received a phone call from a loved one who revealed the teen hadn’t returned home from a shopping trip.
"I was immediately concerned because it was just so completely out of character," said Trina. "We had iPhones, and it had an app that said ‘Find My’ to locate a phone. I typed in her number, and it gave us the coordinates to where we began our search at the time. I did not know that it was within a seven-mile radius of where the phone last pinged to a tower. Where we began our search, it was exactly seven miles from her abductor’s residence."
"The first law enforcement officer who showed up on the scene suggested that maybe Alexis had run away," she shared. "I immediately shut him down. My niece had no reason to run away."
Investigators wondered if Murphy’s disappearance may have been associated with the "Route 29 Stalker." According to Virginia State Police, Alicia Showalter Reynolds was driving from Baltimore to Charlottesville, Virginia, in a Mercury Tracer. She was last seen alive March 2, 1996, driving on a rural stretch of Route 29 outside Culpeper, Virginia, which is about 90 minutes southwest of Washington, D.C.
A witness saw the 25-year-old's car parked on the shoulder. A white man with light brown hair who was between the ages of 35 and 45 had pulled up in a dark pickup. Her body was found two months later. After that, several women reported a man stopping them or attempting to stop them on Route 29. Reynolds’ murder remains unsolved.
Other high-profiled cases connected to the highway 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 killings and was sentenced to four life prison terms without the possibility of parole.
Others suspected that a stalker had followed Murphy’s social media and eventually confronted her in person.
"Everything had to be considered," said Trina. "And we thought a lot of things. Was she involved in sex trafficking? Did she have a stalker online? Was it somebody she went to school with? Is it somebody that we know? A human being just disappeared from the face of the Earth. You’re going to think a lot of things and grab whatever possibility is available."
The Virginia State Police and FBI’s investigation resulted in the arrest of Randy Taylor, who was charged with Murphy’s abduction. Taylor was captured on surveillance video holding the door for Murphy at a gas station. He was convicted of murdering her and sentenced to two life terms after evidence, including Murphy’s DNA on a bloody shirt and a fingernail, was linked to him.
Trina said she "wasn’t concerned" about the possibility of Taylor walking because he was being tried for murder with Murphy still missing.
"I had the utmost confidence in law enforcement," she said. "They investigated this case extensively. I was very confident that they would be successful."
In February 2021, seven years after Murphy went missing, 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 they had recovered Murphy’s body. Her remains were located in December 2020 on private property along Route 29, near where she had stopped for gas.
"A multitude of things ran through my mind," Trina reflected on Taylor's sentencing. "I was partly relieved. There was anger, of course. I was grateful he was finally going to be taken off the streets. Now he wouldn’t inflict this same pain on anyone else. But the grieving process started when Alexis was found.
"We knew that it was likely she wasn’t alive, but we didn’t have that confirmation. And when we did finally get it, it felt like we lost her all over again. It’s been difficult to revisit this past trauma, everything we’ve endured in those last seven years. We’re trying to heal the best way we can. But the pain never goes away."
Trina hopes her niece’s story will encourage both young people and their parents to be mindful of their surroundings, no matter where they live.
"This truly can happen to anyone at any time," she said. "It does not discriminate. My niece was abducted from a small rural town in Virginia in the middle of the day with daylight still outside. I hope young people and their parents watching will be more cautious 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 3rd at 8:00 p.m. on Oxygen. The Associated Press contributed to this report.