- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2005

RICHMOND — Police are hoping the discovery of a missing Virginia Commonwealth University student’s car will help find her two weeks after she disappeared.

Richmond police found Taylor Behl’s 1997 white Ford Escort early Saturday morning about 1 miles from the dorm where she was last seen on Sept. 5. Its Virginia license plates had been replaced with Ohio plates stolen in Richmond before Miss Behl disappeared, but the vehicle still bore its northern Virginia registration decals.

Richmond Police Chief Rodney Monroe said an off-duty police officer found the car parked on a tree-lined, residential street as he was walking his dog.

“This is a tremendous break,” Mr. Monroe said. He is heading the task force made up of officers from Richmond and state police, VCU, the FBI and the state attorney general’s office that is searching for the missing 17-year-old.

Police impounded the car Saturday evening after a day of surveillance turned up nothing. Chief Monroe said it did not appear that the car had been there since the day Miss Behl disappeared.

“I’m thrilled,” Miss Behl’s mother, Janet Pelasara, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I’m very hopeful that when the car is searched … that we’ll find the evidence that will bring her back home alive and well.”

Police activated a nationwide Amber Alert last week in the search for Miss Behl. Posters featuring her likeness have been displayed around campus since she disappeared.

She is described as 5 foot 6 inches and 135 pounds with light brown hair, brown eyes and piercings in her ears and nose.

She left her dorm room around 10:20 p.m. on Sept. 5.

to give her roommate alone time with her boyfriend. She took only her cell phone, a small amount of cash, a student ID and the keys to her car.

Last week, police shifted their search from a missing-persons case to a criminal investigation.

Police executed search warrants at several locations where Miss Behl was known to have been before disappearing. They also have searched her room and removed contents of a personal computer at her Vienna home.

Police also removed computer information and other items from the Richmond home of a 38-year-old amateur photographer with whom Miss Behl reportedly had a relationship.

Police said they have followed 150 leads in the case.

But finding her car “does make me a little more hopeful that she is alive,” her mother said.

“Somebody’s seen her,” she said.

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