The Murder of Taylor Behl

The Tragic Murder of College Freshman Taylor Behl

Taylor Behl
Taylor Behl. Myspace Image

What Happened to Taylor Behl?

Taylor Behl, a 17-year-old freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, left her dormitory room Sept. 5, 2005 to give her roommate some privacy with her boyfriend. She took with her a cell phone, some cash, a student ID and her car keys. She was never seen alive again.

Two weeks later, her 1997 Ford Escort was found a mile and a half from the VCU campus with stolen Ohio license plates. Her body was found in an indentation in the ground 75 miles east of Richmond on Oct. 7.

Taylor Marie Behl's Childhood Years

Taylor Behl was born on October 13, 1987 to Matt and Janet Behl (now Janet Pelasara). By age five, Taylor's parents were divorced, and Janet was remarried to a Royal Air Force officer. She and her new husband and Taylor lived in England and Belgium. Taylor became a seasoned airline passenger before the age of six, making unescorted international trips between Europe and the U.S. By the age of 11, Taylor's mother was divorced again and the two returned to northern Virginia.

Pretty, Popular and Savvy

Taylor Behl was pretty, popular and had an air of well-traveled sophistication. She had attended 15 different schools abroad by the age of 17 when she graduated from Madison High School in the well-off Washington, D.C., bedroom community of Vienna, Virginia. She carried the outward appearance of having developed a savvy independence that would prepare her for her next life adventure of attending her first year of college at the Richmond, Virginia based Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

Janet Pelasara said Taylor selected VCU because of the diversity she would find at the college with its 30,000 students. It seemed like a safe choice, located only one and a half hours away from both her mother and father. In August 2005, at age 17, Taylor Behl packed up her belongings, as did thousands of other college-bound students, and headed to her new home at Gladdings Residence dorm on West Main St. in Richmond, Virginia.

Taylor's Internet Personality - "Bitter"

One important aspect of Taylor Behl's life was her participation on The website is designed so individuals can create profiles for themselves and interact with others in a social-type environment.

On Taylor Behl's profile she created during the summer of 2005, she used the name "Bitter" and posted: "I just graduated from high school and now I'm off to Richmond for college. I'm looking forward to meeting people that are in Richmond because I only know a few people down there." Later in her profile she added, "Who would I like to meet? Someone who is kind." Taylor posted regularly on the site and continued to do so while at VCU.

Taylor Meets Ben Fawley

Unknown to Taylor's parents, Taylor met a man in Feb. 2005, while touring VCU as a prospective student. He was Ben Fawley, a 38-year-old amateur photographer who had a history of dating young college girls. It is believed that Taylor and Fawley developed an online friendship after meeting and the relationship became sexual at some point. There are conflicting reports concerning when or if Taylor ended the physical relationship, but when she arrived at VCU, their friendship continued.

Taylor Vanishes

On Sept. 5, Taylor returned to Richmond after visiting her family in Vienna over the holiday weekend. She called her parents to let them know she made it back to VCU safely. She then had dinner at The Village Cafe with an old boyfriend. Afterwards, Taylor returned to her dorm room, but left to give her roommate and her boyfriend privacy. With her car keys, cell phone, student ID and a little cash, she told her roommate she was going skateboarding and would be back in three hours.


Taylor Behl was never seen alive again. It was not until Sept. 7, that Taylor's roommate made a missing persons report to the VCU campus police. On Sept. 15, the Richmond Police took over and an 11-member task force, including FBI agents, was formed to help find the missing student.

Sept. 17, 2005: Taylor's car, a 1997 white Ford Escort, was found locked and parked on a quiet neighborhood street almost a mile and a half from campus. The license plates had been switched to Ohio plates that had been reported stolen in Richmond two months earlier. Neighbors in the area told police the car had not been there the entire time Taylor was missing.

A K-9 dog picked up two distinct scents in the car. One belonged to Taylor and the other to 22-year-old Jesse Schultz. During police questioning, Schultz denied knowing Taylor and denied ever being in her car. He was arrested on drug possession after police discovered drugs during a search of his home.

On Sept. 21, 2005: Police reported that 38-year-old, Ben Fawley was one of the last known people to see Taylor alive. Fawley told police that Taylor had come over to borrow a skateboard and he walked her back to her dorm around 9:30 p.m. During a police search of his home, police discovered child pornography and he was arrested on 16 child pornography charges. Fawley, a father of two girls, was arraigned and ordered to remain in jail with no bond.

On October 5, 2005: Fawley's ex-girlfriend led police to a house in a photograph displayed on one of Fawley's Internet web sites. The location was an old farm located on her parent's property. The police searched the remote Mathews County farm and discovered the decomposed body of Taylor Behl laying in an indentation in the ground.

Taylor Behl was buried on October 14, a day after she would have turned 18.

Ben Fawley Convicted of Second-Degree Murder

In February, 2006 Ben Fawley was charged with second-degree murder of Taylor Behl. In August he was sentenced to 30 years in prison after entering an Alford plea in the case, which means he did not admit guilt, but accepted the fact that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him of the crime.

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Montaldo, Charles. "The Murder of Taylor Behl." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Montaldo, Charles. (2020, August 26). The Murder of Taylor Behl. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "The Murder of Taylor Behl." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 14, 2021).