- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2005

Police investigating the death of Virginia Commonwealth University student Taylor Marie Behl declined to confirm reports yesterday that one of the last known persons to have see Miss Behl said she died accidently during a sexual encounter.

The reports stated Benjamin Fawley, 38, an amateur photographer and a suspect in the case, talked Wednesday night to police in the Richmond City Jail about his role in the mysterious death.

Fawley told police that Miss Behl, 17, died when he restricted her breathing during an encounter in her car in Mathews County, sources close to the investigation told WRIC-TV (Channel 8) in Richmond and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Fawley said he became scared after Miss Behl died so he dumped her body in a rural section of the county, about 75 miles southeast of the Richmond campus, WRIC-TV reported.

“He has been wanting to talk to the police,” Fawley’s attorney Chris Collins told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “He was pretty frantic to talk to the police. I advised him not to talk, and he didn’t take my advice.”

Mr. Collins, who was present during Fawley’s talk with police, also said his client was going to “help them resolve what happened.” He did not return calls yesterday for comment, but has said Fawley had a sexual relationship with Miss Behl.

Fawley is being held on felony gun and child pornography charges, but has not been charged in connection with the death of Miss Behl, a Vienna, Va., resident.

The Richmond Police Department did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Family and others who knew Miss Behl do not think the death was an accident.

“I believe the statements attributed to Mr. Fawley are something he did say,” said George Peterson, a lawyer for Miss Behl’s mother, Janet Pelasara. “Do I believe they are the truth? Absolutely not.”

Mrs. Pelasara said Friday following her daughter’s funeral that she thinks her daughter was murdered.

“My prayers are that my next press conference is to be announcing the arrest of the sick subhuman that murdered my beautiful daughter,” she said.

On the campus where Miss Behl was a freshman, students were not surprised at the news that Fawley had offered a statement, but they doubted his story.

“I expected that he did it, but not her dying that way,” said Adiya Cradick, 21, a senior, also from Vienna. “It’s just not something I would expect.”

Miss Behl was last seen the night of Sept. 5. Her remains were discovered Oct. 5 in a ravine on a remote farm in Mathews County, near property owned by the family of one of Fawley’s former girlfriends. The woman helped investigators find the body after identifying pictures Fawley took of the area when they visited her family’s home last spring.

Initial autopsies of the badly decomposed body have failed to determine a cause of death. The state medical examiner’s office is conducting more tests to determine the cause, police said last week.

On Friday, several hundred friends and family members attended Miss Behl’s funeral at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna.

“The service was beautiful and touching, short and sweet, just like Taylor’s life,” Mrs. Pelasara said through tears.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports

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