Video: Missing college student

msnbc.com
updated 10/4/2005 11:17:05 AM ET 2005-10-04T15:17:05

On Monday, America heard for the first time from missing university student Taylor Behl through her own words online as several of her blogs and online chats have now been uncovered. 

These words may provide investigators with some new leads and insight into what she was thinking at the time of her disappearance. 

Jim Nolan, a reporter from the "Richmond Times-Dispatch," Corrine Ferrell, a close friend of Taylor Behl, and Rod Wheeler, a former homicide detective, all joined MSNBC's Rita Cosby on Monday's 'Live and Direct' to discuss the new information.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

RITA COSBY: Jim, what do you know? 

JIM NOLAN, RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH:  Well Rita, Taylor Behl has been writing and corresponding on Internet for actually several years now.  And that activity picked up a little bit as she was preparing to leave from Vienna, Virginia which is where she grew up and coming to V.C.U., Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
 
She on her Web site, under the user name Bitter announced the fact that she was coming to college.  She said she was looking forward to meeting friends.  She said she was interesting in dating, and making new friends and meeting people.  And as we know already, she did have a few contacts there, namely Ben Fawley, one of the people who has been described as a person of interest in the investigation as well as a couple of friends with whom she corresponded on the Internet. 

COSBY:  Corrine, I want to show you one of Taylor's online writings.  Very interesting.  She saying, "I'm so blank tired of everyone making decisions in my best interest.  Don't I get a blank, blank say?  No, sorry, not until you're 18."  Some of these writings, of course, have been over the years as Jim as saying.  Some of them have been very recent, soon before her departure.  Was she upset?  Was she angry? 

CORRINE FERRELL, TAYLOR BEHL'S FRIEND:  No, I mean, I guess, every 17-year-old feels that way.  It's sort of a rite of passage to turn 18.  I guess she was sort of feeling dramatic.

COSBY:  Yeah, although, you know, one of the things she seems very dramatic.  She says in one blog, "I know now that everyone is useless and really doesn't care."  Let me read that again.  "I know now that everyone is useless and really doesn't care."  It sounds like she was depressed. 

FERRELL:  You know, when I was around her, she always seemed really happy, and fun and like loving.  She would always just do the best things.  Anytime you needed something, she would do it.  So, I mean, I guess for the people she really cared about she made a difference in their lives, you know?  Like, she rules.

COSBY:  Was she upset about anything?  I mean, was it to the point that maybe she would have run away? 

FERRELL:  I don't think, you know, I'm not even sure.  I just think teenagers get upset about boys and stuff and their jobs and their mom and their dad.  She was going away to school.  She was really excited. 

COSBY:  That's good to hear.  Rod, what are your impressions when you hear this ... Is it a typical teenager, or is it someone who seems disturbed?  

ROD WHEELER, FORMER HOMICIDE DETECTIVE:  That's right.  Well, you know, unfortunately, nowadays what happens with these Internet chat rooms and blog sites, there's actually sexual predators that actually scour these sites looking for individuals, so it's really a good idea not to put your whereabouts or where you're going to be located at all on those sites. 

Now, that obviously could have happened here with Taylor.  But at the same time, I think there's a lot of hidden messages behind some of the writings that Taylor actually put on her blog site.  And I can tell you that the police are utilizing that information as I speak to try to gain a profile as to exactly what was on Taylor's mind at or around the time she disappeared. 

COSBY:  And what do you read into it, Rod? 

WHEELER:  Well, what I find so far, Rita from reading published reports and actually having some actual sources on the police department down there, they're actually beginning to wonder whether or not someone was really trying to find out exactly her location and where she was located, because she was on the Internet pretty regularly rather frequently.  And I can tell you that the focus of the police investigation right now is exactly that, the Internet chat site.
 
COSBY:  Let me show you another e-mail.  This was a response actually.  She said, everybody tell me about your memories of me.  Good and bad.  And this who is Skulz67 -- we now know that Skulz67 was one of the names of Ben Fawley, this photographer with whom she had a relationship.  And Ben Fawley responded to her e-mail request, and he says, quote, this very Skulz67, Ben Fawley, "this very attractive girl climbed up into my bunk at 407," putting his address, "the last girl to do so before the move."

Taylor Behl responds, well, I was curious.  Skulz says, "so was I.  In fact, I still am."  Corrine, how do you read that? 

FERRELL:  Never saw that on her journal.  I looked at it every so often.  She would send me messages or she would write me something funny about me.  And people would tell me something funny about me, and I'd check it.  But, you know, I really don't know about that.  I just think that he may have let out a little bit of their private life.  That may have been, maybe something she didn't want to see, maybe something she didn't want other people to know about.  I guess that's probably what happened.

COSBY:  Corrine, did she ever tell you about her relationship with Ben Fawley? 

FERRELL: I mean, I knew about her relationship with him.  But I did not know him.  I had assumed that it just ended after they had met a few times.  But as far as I know, it was over when she left Richmond the third time. 

COSBY:  And Corrine, she has got a lot of friends.  In fact, she had 92 friends, quote, online.  Was there anyone who was angry at her? 

FERRELL:  I don't -- nobody but me for driving my car a way or something.  No. I don't think anyone would be angry at her.  She's so sweet and so caring.  She just loved everybody. 

COSBY:  What do you make, Rod, of Ben Fawley? 

WHEELER:  Well, I can tell you right now that Ben Fawley is exactly the type of person I was talking about earlier, Rita, an individual that actually scours the site, meets females -- actually, you know what they do?  They lure these females to their apartments, or to their residences and they typically hang around college campuses.  Now right now, Ben Fawley is still a person of interest, but I can also tell you that the Richmond Police Department are looking at other individuals in that area as well. 

COSBY:  And Jim Nolan, let me go back to you, because I hear that this investigation is hot, that there may be some progress.  Are you getting any sense that they may be closing in on someone? 

NOLAN:  Well, certainly, Rita, they are making progress.  And they do have people of interest.  And Mr. Fawley is one of them.  It's interesting that we're talking about the Internet.  I think now  -- these days it's very easy for people to read a lot into what they see on the Internet.  We all know a lot of it's not true.  We all know some of the things we write in the heat of the moment always things that we mean the next day. 

For me, the most compelling part about the Internet interaction between Taylor Behl and Benjamin Fawley is really revolving around Fawley himself and the report that made to police of allegedly being abducted the night after Taylor Behl was last seen.  Now in that report, he says a number of things about his abduction, doesn't get specific.  He talks a lot about unknown factors.  In his on-line posting, however, he gets much more specific.  And he says some things. 

And when we talk about investigators and what they're looking at when they look at that Internet, they're looking for contradictions.  They have already spoken to a number of people with whom Taylor corresponded on the Internet.  One of them being Ben Fawley.  They now have two versions of a story that he's told.  And you can bet that they're comparing those two versions, his Internet version and the version he filed to them and looking for inconsistencies, the same type of process is what they're going through with another people with whom Taylor has corresponded on the Internet. 

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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