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‘Why Isn’t My Mom Here?’ Family Wants Answers Months After Virginia Mother Disappears
A 25-year-old mother last texted relatives on Sept. 13 to say she planned to travel with her truck-driving friend who died in a horrific crash in North Carolina — but only one body was reportedly found in crash.
The loved ones of a missing woman from Virginia’s rural Eastern Shore are searching for answers months after her disappearance.
Alyssa Nicole Taylor, 25, last texted her mother, Krista Taylor, on Sept. 13, explaining that she was off to travel with a friend in his tractor-trailer, Taylor’s family told Oxygen.com. However, there have been no signs of the woman's whereabouts since then, leaving her family — including her 5- and 6-year-old sons — without answers.
“I miss her so much,” Krista told Oxygen.com. “Her boys miss her. We hope and pray we will get closure and answers.”
Shelly Payton, Taylor’s maternal aunt, also spoke with Oxygen.com to discuss the grief the family has endured in the months since Taylor disappeared.
“It has broken us,” said Payton. “We don’t know if we’re supposed to mourn her or keep searching for her.”
Taylor, of Oak Hall, Virginia — part of Virginia’s Delmarva Peninsula and about 100 miles north of Norfolk — told relatives she had plans to travel with a man named Danny McNeal, 51, according to her family. Taylor’s loved ones said they believed the pair were friendly with one another and that it wasn’t the first time Taylor accompanied McNeal.
The Accomack County Sheriff’s Office previously stated Taylor did not have a vehicle of her own.
Loved ones believe McNeal, a truck driver, picked Taylor up from her Oak Hall home before traveling north to Delaware for a frozen chicken delivery. Later in the day, they returned south to Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
At around 8:00 p.m., Taylor’s family said local police in Northampton County stopped McNeal’s tractor-trailer, which was reportedly illegally parked in Exmore, Virginia — about 30 miles south of Oak Hall.
“Alyssa was in the truck at that time. We could hear her voice on the cop’s body footage,” Payton told Oxygen.com. “Danny was not in the truck at the time; he had went to a friend’s house.”
Payton stated she observed footage of the officer speaking with Alyssa for several minutes until McNeal returned.
“Danny came to the truck, and the police officer let Danny go with a warning,” Payton continued. “The police officer said he watched them drive off because he stayed with his lights flashing to make sure they safely got on the road.”
But in the early morning of Sept. 14 at around 2:00 a.m., just hours after Exmore Police reportedly spoke with the pair, McNeal and his dog were killed in a fiery crash while traveling southbound on Interstate 85 in Hillsborough, North Carolina — over 250 miles from Exmore.
A postmortem examination revealed “acute ethanol intoxication” as contributing to the crash, which caused structural damage to an overpass, resulting in days-long road closures, per NBC Raleigh affiliate WRAL. According to autopsy results provided to Oxygen.com, tests showed McNeal had a blood alcohol content of .32%, which falls under having alcohol poisoning or loss of consciousness, per studies by the University of Notre Dame.
Experts concluded McNeal died of his injuries before the fire reached him.
“I received a phone call from [Krista] on Sept. 20,” Payton told Oxygen.com. “She was very upset and said she’d seen a Facebook post that Danny had died in an accident. Then she explained to me Alyssa had went with him on the truck on Sept. 13, and she had not heard from her.”
Loved ones of Taylor believe it’s possible the missing mother was with McNeal in the crash, though a crash scene investigation concluded only one body was at the scene, as stated in McNeal’s autopsy.
“Only one set of human remains was identified on scene and at autopsy,” reported the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh.
Investigators observed surveillance footage showing McNeal purchasing alcohol at a convenience store and “traveling with another person” before the crash, the same postmortem findings state.
It remains unknown who was with McNeal, and despite efforts to contact multiple law enforcement agencies about the case, Oxygen.com received no word back.
Payton explained her sister Krista was en route from Florida around the time she caught wind of the crash. The frantic mother reportedly stopped at the North Carolina wrecking company which then had possession of McNeal’s truck.
There, she found her daughter’s blanket, according to Payton.
“She called me freaking out, screaming her blanket was in the wreckage,” Payton told Oxygen.com.
Days later, loved ones traveled to the crash site, where they found an earring in a nearby storm drain and a flip-flop shoe believed to be Taylor’s.
“We stayed there a week, talking to different people, trying to find out more information,” Payton stated. “North Carolina Highway Patrol told us they’re 99.9% sure she was not in the truck [at the time of the crash]. We felt so helpless.”
Taylor's mother Krista told Oxygen.com she's resigned to the idea that her daughter was killed in the crash.
"I believe with all my heart, my daughter, she was in that crash and died," said Krista. "She has made no contact with anyone since then."
Payton, on the other hand, believes foul play is possible. She claims McNeal was allegedly on a three-hour phone call with his girlfriend in the time leading up to the accident.
“I can honestly say I have my doubts now,” Payton told Oxygen.com. “I just think that everything needs to be looked at.”
The family says they’ve grown increasingly frustrated since law enforcement has not returned calls pertaining to the 25-year-old’s disappearance.
“It was heartbreaking; we had a family get-together before Christmas, and it wasn’t the same without her,” Payton told Oxygen.com. “Her oldest son asked, ‘Why isn’t my mom here?’ We all had to fight back tears. Especially my sister.”
Despite Alyssa Taylor’s last-known whereabouts possibly spanning multiple states, the FBI is not assisting in the investigation, according to the family. In Virginia, federal authorities would have to be requested by the investigating agency.
Christopher Knox, a public information officer for the North Carolina Highway Patrol, stated that the agency has completed their investigation into the crash and turned their findings over to the Sheriff's Office, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
“I want everybody to understand our role in this as a law enforcement agency,” Knox said. “We are a Highway Patrol, and while we are working with anybody we can work with to help find this young lady, our part of the investigation is related to the collision. What happened at that collision scene is what we do as an agency. We talk to everybody we can talk to to help understand the collision, and we’re more than willing going forward to help investigators or the family or anybody — but that falls outside what we do.”
Anyone with information can contact the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office at 1-757-787-1131 or 1-757-824-5666. The family also invites the public to join their Facebook page “Help Us Find Alyssa Taylor.”