Janet Pelasara of Vienna began her speaking tour at home Sunday with a book signing at American Legion Post 180. Following the event, she left for New York City, where she would appear the next day on "The Early Show" on CBS, "Good Day New York" on Fox and "Catherine Crier Live" on Court TV.
Last year, Pelasara's daughter, Taylor Behl, a 17-year-old James Madison High School graduate, was killed shortly after beginning classes at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her disappearance and the discovery of her remains a month later grabbed national headlines. Behl's killer, Benjamin Fawley, now 39, pled guilty to second-degree murder in August, in exchange for a 30-year prison sentence.
Now, Pelasara, collaborating with a ghost writer, has written a book about the ordeal. "Love You More: My Fight for Justice for My Daughter" was released Nov. 7 by Regan Books. The title was Behl's standard response to her mother's affection.
Sunday, Pelasara told the small crowd at Post 180 a little about her life since the death of her daughter. "How do I survive? How do I face each day? How do I live without the one person who has meant more to me than anyone else?" This, she said, is the question she has faced. "I keep waiting for something to change. They told me there would be closure when justice had been served."
FROM THE BOOK, she read a passage about the pain of leaving her daughter at college, a foreshadowing of the greater loss to come. "Who was I going to be without Taylor?" she had asked herself. She read another passage about the day Behl's body was found. "I could tell right away that they had the worst possible news," she said of the two officers who had come to her house. "How do you know it's Taylor?" she had immediately asked, before they had spoken a word.
Pelasara said it was about a year ago that she decided to write the book, and she started the project in March. The biggest challenge, she said, was deciding what to leave out. "You want every single experience, every detail to be told." Much of the book is about her life with her daughter, she said. Over a third of the 219 pages are set prior to Behl's disappearance.
SHE WROTE the book, she said, for "therapeutic reasons" and to keep her daughter's memory alive. It is also intended to be a cautionary tale. "Hopefully, parents will read it and realize that this could happen to their children, or young women read it and learn to be just a bit more careful," said Pelasara.
Karen Fones, a family friend who was getting two copies signed for her college-age cousins, asked Pelasara to write in them something to the effect of "Please read carefully."
Pelasara said her work has paid off with invitations to speak on behalf of groups such as Parents of Murdered Children and Violence Against Women, and with the knowledge that she has "already helped two families." She declined to give details on those families' stories.
She will also be speaking at George Mason University at noon on Nov. 30.
On Dec. 2, "48 Hours" will air an hour-long program about the Taylor Behl case. Pelasara said she has received requests for appearances on other shows.