Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Taylor Behl

Not A Child, Not Yet A Woman

by Marilyn Bardsley

The portrait of Taylor Behl that has emerged from acquaintances, her online journals and her mother is a young woman far more mature in many ways than most 17-year-olds.

Janet Pelasara
Janet Pelasara

Janet Pelasara, Taylor's mother, says that Taylor traveled alone on international flights at the tender age of five. While there was certainly an airline employee charged with young Taylor's safety on these flights, it still required a presence of mind that one would not particularly expect in a child of that age.

Pelasara was married to a Royal Air Force officer and they lived with Taylor in both England and Belgium. She told Jim Nolan of the Times-Dispatch that when the marriage to the officer ended, she returned with Taylor to northern Virginia. Taylor had attended 15 different schools before she enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

Pelasara characterized Taylor as "street smart," but "sophisticated" might be a better term. Vienna and Ashburn, the two northern Virginia communities in which Taylor lived from the time she came back to the U.S. at age 11 are affluent, middle and upper middle class communities that are more prone to shelter their children from the type of "street smarts" a kid on the streets of Washington, D.C. might acquire. It's a reasonable guess that when she lived in Europe in the home of a British officer, the opportunities for becoming sophisticated were greater than becoming street smart.

Having grown up in conservative, well-to-do communities without rebelling against its norms, Taylor told her mother that she chose the huge, diverse urban campus of Virginia Commonwealth University because it offered her a different kind of experience.

"She's very smart and very worldly at 17, but she's still a 17-year-old," her uncle, Jeff Pelasara, told Nolan.

Part of the campus buildings of Virginia Commonwealth University
Part of the campus buildings of Virginia Commonwealth University
Large urban campuses are not immune to the kinds of problems that characterize all urban settings — crime, drugs, every kind of predator and undesirable. VCU is no different. Even so, most of its students avoid these problems and go about their business and get the good educational experience that the school has to offer.

Young Taylor did do a few things that put her at risk. High on that list is her relationship with Ben Fawley, a man more than twice her age with a criminal past who is now in jail on child pornography charges. Also, she was walking around in an urban area, presumably unescorted, at 10:30 at night. Finally, at least some of her new friends in Richmond were people who were very much involved in the local drug scene.

"It sounds like she was exploited by several people," her mother said, "and they are going to pay."

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