NELSON COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — It was two and a half years ago that 17-year-old Alexis Murphy disappeared in broad daylight. She was last seen at a gas station in Lovingston in 2013.
Alexis’ disappearance thrust her family into the media spotlight. Now, Murphy’s aunt, Trina Murphy, is on a mission to keep other teens safe and to help families that find themselves in similar situations.
“There’s not a day that goes by that or moment goes by that she is not far from our thoughts,” Trina said.
Though she’s still looking for answers after Alexis disappeared, she’s not searching for a purpose.
“One of the things I can do to honor my niece’s legacy is reach out to other people going through this and not let this happen again.”
The entire community rallied and came out to search for Alexis after she went missing. Police identified Randy Taylor as a suspect through surveillance video. Taylor was convicted of murdering Murphy, though her body was never found.
“Having this person who committed this crime behind bars is huge for us,” Trina said. “He will never be able to exact this kind of pain on another family. On some level, she has justice.”
Trina was front and center for many interviews as the Murphy family spokesperson. Now, she’s turned the sorrow of her niece’s murder into action, helping out with the Save The Next Girl organization and even taking victim advocacy one step further by starting a new, nonprofity group called The AWARE Foundation, which stands for “Always Watch And Recognize your Environment.”
“I don’t think you can go through something like this and not be fundamentally changed,” she said.
The Facebook page features missing people, who could be one share away from being found.
“I wanted to do something to honor Alexis,” Trina said. “This is it.”
The foundation started as a symposium held early last year at Monticello High School in Albemarle County.
“It got great response,” Trina recalled. “The kids loved it. They were asking questions. They wanted to know what they could do to keep themselves safe, friends safe.”
She also wants to be a resource for families with a missing loved one.
“You are confused, you don’t know what to do next,” she said. “There’s some really key information, points, families need to know, media contacts. The last thing you want in that situation is a camera in your face, but that’s exactly what you need.”
In just a few weeks, the AWARE Foundation’s Facebook page has gained more than 4,000 followers. Trina dreams of a point where there are AWARE chapters in every school across the country.
If anything, Trina says that recent cases like the slaying of Nicole Lovell, who disappeared from Blacksburg, should be a wake up call to parents.
“You have to be really responsible when it comes to social media. You have to pick your battles. I highly recommend you make social media your battle…it exposes them to the world”