- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005


A Richmond judge has signed a gag order on witnesses who testify before a grand jury hearing evidence in the death of Taylor Marie Behl.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, but witnesses called before the panel typically are not prohibited from discussing their testimony after appearing.

The order signed Monday by Judge Margaret Spencer legally binds the witnesses called before the panel, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. This includes members of the police department, police said yesterday.

“We cannot talk about anything that happened after 2:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, when the gag order was signed,” said Kirsten Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Richmond Police Department. “The next thing we would be talking about is cause of death and charges. Anything other than that is a ‘no,’ unless it is cleared with our chief and the judge who issued the order.”

The grand jury is expected to convene tomorrow for a second time to hear evidence in the case.

George Peterson, an attorney for Miss Behl’s mother, Janet Pelasara, said yesterday that he did not know what would be discussed in the grand jury proceedings.

Miss Behl, a 17-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University freshman from Vienna, Va., disappeared from school on Sept. 5. Her body was found a month later, in a ravine in Mathews County, Va., about 70 miles east of Richmond, the day after the first grand jury convened in the case.

No charges have been filed in Miss Behl’s death. Benjamin Fawley, 38, an amateur photographer, told police last week that the teen died accidently after he cut off her air supply while the two were having sexual relations, the Times-Dispatch reported. Police would not confirm the report.

Chris Collins, an attorney for Fawley, refused to comment on the case yesterday.

Richmond Police Chief Rodney D. Monroe said last week that he would request the gag order in the case after Fawley’s statement was leaked to the press.

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