Two college students met up to grab a bite to eat at a fast-food chain restaurant near campus. They sat down and conversed as any friends would — a seemingly normal outing. But they didn’t chat about homework or discuss their weekend plans.
They talked about planning a murder.
The victim: Nicole Madison Lovell
13-year-old Blacksburg resident Nicole Madison Lovell disappeared from her home after midnight on Jan. 27. Lovell’s mother, Tammy Weeks, went to her daughter’s bedroom door that night to find it barricaded by a dresser, according to Montgomery County prosecutor Mary Pettitt. Once inside her daughter’s bedroom, Weeks found an open window and realized Lovell was gone.
Lovell’s body was found three days later in a wooded area just across the North Carolina border. Pettitt said Lovell was fatally stabbed the day of her disappearance, in a press conference on Feb. 2.
The suspects: David Eisenhauer and Natalie Keepers
On Jan. 29, Virginia Tech freshman and track athlete David Eisenhauer, 18, was arrested and charged with the abduction and murder of Lovell.
Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson announced the news at a press conference on Jan. 30, just hours after Lovell’s remains were found in Surry County, North Carolina.
“This was a huge investigation that involved, unfortunately, taking apart the life of a 13-year-old and figuring out where she was and who she had come in contact with,” Wilson said. “I’m not going to go into all the specific pieces of it, but when the pieces did come together, Mr. Eisenhauer was identified.”
Eisenhauer was previously listed as a distance runner on Virginia Tech’s track and field team. The university removed his athlete profile following his arrest. According to university spokesperson Tracy Vosburgh, Eisenhauer had been placed on an immediate interim suspension per the school’s policy regarding felony arrests.
On Jan. 31 authorities arrested Virginia Tech student Natalie Keepers, 19, who is charged with accessory to murder before the fact, Pettit said. Keepers was previously charged with concealing a body and being an accessory to murder after the fact. The new sentence carries 20 years to life in prison.
“Based on the evidence collected to date, investigators have determined that Eisenhauer and Nicole were acquainted prior to (Lovell’s) disappearance,” police said in a statement. “Eisenhauer used this relationship to his advantage to abduct the 13-year-old and then kill her. Keepers helped Eisenhauer dispose of Nicole’s body.”
Cause of death, victim’s medical history
An arrest warrant filed Feb. 1 revealed no firearms were used, and neither suspect had a criminal record. At a Blacksburg Police Department news conference on Feb. 2, Pettitt said early examinations indicate stabbing as Lovell’s cause of death.
At the conference, Weeks spoke to the press for the first time since her daughter’s disappearance.
During her speech, Weeks discussed Lovell’s extensive medical history: she received a liver transplant when she was 10 months old, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age four and was given a one-percent chance of survival after slipping into a coma for six months.
“Coley once again beat the odds,” Weeks said. “Coley had a passion for pandas, music, dancing, dreamed of being on American Idol someday. Her favorite color was blue. Nicole was a very lovable person. Nicole touched many people throughout her short life.”
Unable to finish her statement, Nicole’s youth pastor Josh Blankenship finished Weeks’ speech.
“Our hearts still ache in sadness and secret tears still flow — what it meant to lose you, no one will ever know,” Blankenship said.
Although many questions were answered that day, two went unaddressed: How did two Virginia Tech students cross paths with the 13-year-old girl, and why would one of them allegedly abduct and kill her?
Kik used between suspect and victim
On Feb. 3, authorities revealed that Lovell had been using Kik messenger to connect with Eisenhauer.
Kik, a smartphone messaging app popular among teenagers, provides free, easy and instant connections to users anywhere. The app enables users to message each other one-one-one or in group chats. Users are also able to identify themselves by usernames which can provide a degree of anonymity on the app.
Lovell had apparently used accounts on Kik and other social media platforms against her parents’ wishes.
Authorities say the app is dangerous because parents cannot prevent anonymous users from contacting their children.
“She was able, at 13 years old, to go and set up profiles on Facebook that we had no idea about. And a minor should not be able to do that,” Lovell’s father told CBS News. “We have no idea who they’re talking to.”
Kik made an updated guide for parents, available of the app’s website, following Eisenhauer and Keepers’ arrests.
“We are trying to educate all users, parents and teens,” company spokesman Rod McLeod told The Associated Press.
Lovell’s murder was premeditated, officials say
More details surrounding Lovell’s disappearance and murder came out in court Feb. 4 during Keepers’ bond hearing. According to Pettitt, Keepers’ motive was “excite(ment) to be part of something secretive and special.”
According to Pettitt, Eisenhauer and Keepers went to the Cook-Out restaurant in Blacksburg, just days before Lovell’s disappearance, to plan the 13-year-old girl’s murder.
Eisenhauer then told Keepers that he would convince Lovell to leave her home one night, take her to a remote locations and use a knife to slit her throat, Pettitt said.
Pettitt also said Eisenhauer and Keepers bought a shovel and sought out a remote location for the killing.
Officials said investigators believe Eisenhauer had an inappropriate relationship with Lovell and that she was planning to expose their relationships, and this was Eisenhauer’s motive to kill her.
Eisenhauer denied involvement in Lovell’s murder.
Pettitt said in court that Eisenhauer communicated with Lovell via social media on Jan. 27 at 12:39 a.m.
According to Pettitt, Keepers assisted Eisenhauer in moving Lovell’s body into the trunk of his Lexus and that the remains were still in the vehicle when the pair went to buy cleaning supplies.
After authorities discovered Lovell’s remains, police found Keepers at her boyfriend’s house. According to officials, she allegedly sent Eisenhauer a text message reading: “POLICE.”
The judge denied Keepers bond.
A preliminary hearing for Eisenhauer has been scheduled for March 28. Lovell’s autopsy report is expected to be finished prior to the hearing, Pettitt said.
Online News Editor, Maura Mazurowski
Maura is a junior cinema and journalism student. She’s interested in combining investigative journalism with filmmaking, and is a contributing writer for the online publications Elite Daily and Literally Darling. Before transferring to VCU, Maura was an editor for the student newspaper at Virginia Tech, the Collegiate Times. // Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Portfolio
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