Prosecutors are speaking out about murder suspect Randy Taylor's request for a change of venue for his trial set to begin this Spring. Taylor is charged with murder in connection to 17-year-old Alexis Murphy's disappearance from Nelson County.
Taylor's attorney says the May 1 trial should be moved, but Friday the Commonwealth Attorney said not so fast.
In the town of just 15,000 people, the story of one of Nelson County's own remains a sensitive one.
"It's very difficult. We just don't know, and it's been so long," said Sandra Height.
Now the community is reacting to Taylor's recent request.
"I think it should stay here," said Leigh Powell.
"I think he will get a fair trial here," Height added.
NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin says it's not uncommon for defense attorneys to make this request, especially in a small community.
"Small towns can present unique problems, because everyone knows each other. There are relationships, and so many people can be affected by a local tragedy," Benjamin said.
He says that's not enough to grant a change of venue. Taylor's defense wants the judge to consider extensive media coverage of the case that he believes could impact jury selection.
"People don't know anything about him. They've done a good job keeping a lot of the information out of the press," Carol Moore said.
Another fact on many people's minds: nearly six months after Alexis' disappearance, there's still no discovery of her body, even though the state is charging Taylor with murder.
"What the prosecution must prove, by circumstantial evidence, is that the person surely was, in fact, killed. They also have to rule out the death was by accident or suicide…In other situations, it can be a strategic move, a move to designed to up the stakes in order to compel a guilty plea to a lesser crime. I don't know, in this case, what the motive is," Benjamin added.
Either way, folks in this town stand united in their opinion about the defense's motion.
"Nelson County people are just good ole, home people," said James West.
Friday, Alexis' aunt Trina Murphy said she does not want the trial moved because she says the crime happened there. A judge will hear the change of venue motion next Friday.
Benjamin says media coverage of a crime shouldn't matter in the judge's decision, unless there's bias or inadmissible evidence presented by media. The prosecutor in the Taylor trial said the suspect's request is premature, since the trial is months away.
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