RADFORD, Va. -

In a matter of days, Randy Taylor will go to trial in Nelson County for the murder of Alexis Murphy.

The Lovingston teenager disappeared back in August. To this day, the search efforts continue, but she's still missing.

Taylor's trial is set to begin Thursday, but can you convict someone of murder without the body of the victim?

It’s happened before and it could happen again.

Virginia's first no-body murder conviction happened in 1980. A student at Radford University went missing and within a matter of weeks someone was charged with her murder.

WDBJ7’s Nadine Maeser sat down with the Commonwealth's Attorney assigned to this case, and others familiar with her murder, to see how it changed Virginia law forever.

Everett Shockley is practicing law in Dublin, but 34 years ago he was fresh out of law school, serving as the Commonwealth's Attorney for Pulaski County and had one of Virginia's biggest murder cases on his hands.

"The only thing we were lacking was a body," said Shockley.

Gina Hall was 18-years-old when she went missing on June 20, 1980.

Hall was seen leaving a nightclub in Blacksburg with a man by the name of Stephen Epperly.

The two ended up going to a friend's cabin at Claytor Lake after a night of dancing, and Hall was never seen again.

"We're just assuming that we're going to find the body,” said Shockley. “You just don't think that the body isn't going to show up somewhere, but we were wrong."

Shockley told WDBJ7 the physical evidence in the Hall murder case was overwhelming. There were blood stains at the cabin and Hall's clothes were found along a railroad trestle near Epperly's house in Radford.

Shockley said they were things that forced investigators to believe Hall had been murdered.

Keith Humphry was a reporter at WDBJ7 at the time Hall went missing. He had been assigned to cover the missing-persons-turned-murder case and said he still remembers thinking Shockley had a difficult task ahead of him in prosecuting Epperly since a body had not been found.

"You would think it would go on for years and it did not,” he said.

Humphry said the trial released information and details about the evidence and crime scene that most of the public did not know about.

"You can sort of piece together in your mind though you really wouldn't want to the gruesome nature of this attack,” said Humphry. "He pieced it together, built the case on physical evidence and statements and circumstances."

It took six months from the time Hall was reported missing to the moment the jury returned a guilty verdict.

Shockley said people questioned his decision to go to trial, but he said he knew he had to move forward without a body.

"That could be catastrophic in some prosecutions, but in this case, with all the other circumstantial evidence we had, the body really was a big piece, but it wasn't a huge piece of the whole puzzle."

Radford City Police Lieutenant Andy Wilburn wasn't an investigator on the case at the time, but has taken the initiative to reopen it in hopes of finding closure for the family.

"Investigators got the conviction back then and I just felt like it deserved another look,” said Wilburn. “Fresh eyes."

He said the murder conviction was huge for not only Hall's family, but for law enforcement and the justice system in Virginia.

"I think it gave detectives, officers, Commonwealth's Attorney's, families hope that they know their loved one is dead and now it's a matter of bringing the person responsible and holding them accountable for what happened."