- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

Friends and family slowly filed into a Vienna, Va., funeral home yesterday to pay their respects to Taylor Marie Behl, whose remains were found last week in rural southeastern Virginia.

On what would have been her 18th birthday yesterday, friends and relatives walked up the center aisle of a visitation room at Money and King Funeral Home to express their condolences and share memories with the parents of the Virginia Commonwealth University freshman.

Miss Behl’s favorite flowers — yellow and white roses — covered the wooden casket, which was placed near the far wall in the room. Bouquets of flowers were stacked from floor to ceiling behind the casket and along the side walls of the room. Nearby were four bulletin boards full of colored photographs of Miss Behl.

Miss Behl, whose middle name Marie came from her maternal great-great-grandmother, disappeared Labor Day after leaving her dorm room in Richmond. Her remains were found Oct. 5 in a shallow grave in Mathews County, Va., about 75 miles east of Richmond.

“She’s a victim of a predator,” said Don Pelasara, Miss Behl’s uncle.

Police are waiting to learn the cause of death in Miss Behl’s case. An autopsy was performed last week, but the Virginia Medical Examiner’s office needs to run more tests, police have said.

The only suspect in Miss Behl’s case is Benjamin Fawley, 38, of Richmond. Fawley is an amateur photographer who is known to have had a sexual relationship with Miss Behl and is one of the last people to see Miss Behl before she disappeared.

Fawley has not been charged in Miss Behl’s case.

Fawley is being held without bail in Richmond on unrelated charges, including child pornography and owning a firearm as a felon. The investigation has established that Fawley was in possession of firearms prior to Miss Behl’s being reported missing, police have said.

Miss Behl was last seen at about 10:20 p.m. Sept. 5. On her way out, she grabbed her car keys, her cell phone and some cash and told her roommate that she would be out for a few hours skateboarding with friends, police said.

Two VCU police officers found Miss Behl’s remains behind an abandoned farmhouse a month later.

Police said they were led to the property by photographs of the farmhouse and barn found on Fawley’s Web site and interviews with one of Fawley’s ex-girlfriends whose parents reportedly own land adjacent to the site.

Several days after her disappearance, Miss Behl’s 1997 Ford Escort was found, with stolen Ohio plates, a few miles from her dorm. Soil samples taken from the bottom of the car matched a sample taken from the road off which Miss Behl’s remains were found, police said.

Police are asking Mathews County residents for information on sightings of three license plates and Miss Behl’s white Ford Escort between Sept. 5 and Sept. 17.

Police are looking for information regarding Virginia plate “GRN ERTH,” Virginia plate “JPC 2848” and Ohio plate “EP 34 KW.” Investigators want to know when and where the vehicle was spotted and a description of the driver.

Anyone with information is asked to call the tip line at 804/514-8477.

Yesterday, mourners said they couldn’t believe that Miss Behl is gone.

“We graduated with her. She was a very nice person,” said Chris and Rachel, both 18, who graduated with Miss Behl last summer from James Madison High School. They, like several other teenagers, declined to give their last names.

“She was my friend,” said Alex Hernandez, who wiped away tears as he walked haltingly down the aisle.

Inside, Miss Behl’s father, Matt Behl, stood near the head of the casket as he shook hands, hugged and kissed the visitors.

At the entry of the visitation room stood Miss Behl’s mother, Janet Pelasara, who in a black dress, also affectionately thanked the mourners.

“She was a delightful girl. She was fun, energetic and very kind. … The yellow flowers on the casket. It was her favorite,” said Mr. Pelasara, of Sterling, Va. “There’s no way to explain [Miss Behl’s death]. I didn’t know anybody who didn’t adore her. Little kids loved her. She loved to play with them. I’d rather be sending birthday cards, rather than sympathy cards.”

When Miss Behl was 5 years old, she traveled to England and Belgium with her mother, who married a Royal Air Force officer. At 11, Miss Behl returned home in Northern Virginia.

Miss Behl worked at Jammin’ Java, a coffee shop in Vienna, Va., before she left for VCU this summer.

A funeral for Miss Behl will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna, Va.

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