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Virginia jury to begin deliberations in rural murder case

By Gary Robertson

LOVINGTON, Virginia (Reuters) - A jury will begin deliberations on Thursday in the case of a handyman accused of murdering a 17-year-old girl in rural western Virginia, following closing arguments by attorneys on Wednesday.

Randy Taylor, 48, is accused of abducting high school senior

Alexis Murphy in August 2013 while she was on a shopping trip, and then killing her. The case has drawn national attention and riveted the close-knit region.

Murphy had been out purchasing hair extensions so she could dress up for her senior portrait, according to family members. She was last seen at a local service station, where surveillance cameras also captured Taylor opening the door for her.

She has never been seen since, despite dozens of searches through the rugged mountainous area by law enforcement officers, community volunteers and Murphy's own friends and family.

The teenager's car was found abandoned in the parking lot of a movie theater in an adjoining county three days after her disappearance.

Taylor is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and abduction. Nelson County Commonwealth's Attorney Anthony Martin told jurors that Murphy's blood was found on a shirt that had been balled up and shoved under a couch in Taylor's trailer.

But defense attorney Michael Hallahan has told the jury that nobody knew what happened to Murphy.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Ken Wills)

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