Details about how two Virginia Tech students allegedly planned the murder of a teenage girl and disposed of her body were revealed in court today when a judge denied a bail request by one of the accused who the prosecutor said had never met the victim before her death.
How Police Say They Tied Teen to Suspects
Police were able to tie slain Nicole Lovell, 13, to suspect David Eisenhauer after determining that a phone connected to him was the teen’s last contacted number at 12:39 a.m. Jan. 27, Mary Pettitt, the Virginia state attorney for Montgomery County, said in court today.
After police issued a search warrant for Eisenhauer's dorm room on Jan. 30, he told police he had gone over to Nicole’s apartment after their phone call, and he saw her climb out of her window, Pettitt said.
Eisenhauer told police he had given Nicole a "side hug" but then left and went to the dorm room of a close friend, Pettitt said. Authorities determined the friend was the second suspect, Natalie Keepers, whom police found in her boyfriend's dorm room Jan. 31.
When police arrived at that dorm room, Keepers allegedly sent Eisenhauer a text that read "POLICE," not knowing that Eisenhauer was already in police custody at the time.
Eisenhauer is charged with kidnapping and first degree murder. Keepers is chargd with being an accessory to kidnap and murder both before and after the crimes and also faces a charge of improperly disposing of a body. Both Eisenhauer and Keepers had separate arraignments on Monday where they had preliminary hearings scheduled for late March. Neither has had to enter a plea yet.
Details of the Alleged Plan Emerge
Keepers, 19, apparently told police only part of the story when she was first questioned on Jan. 31. Pettitt said Keepers first told police that Eisenhauer told her that he had killed Nicole and had put her body in the trunk of his Lexus. Keepers told investigators that she had been with him when he went to Walmart to get cleaning supplies while Nicole's body was still in the trunk, Pettitt said.
Pettitt also said that Keepers told investigators where in her dorm room they could find the suitcase containing the cleaning supplies and the “Minions” blanket that police had said was with Nicole when she went missing. Keepers also told police where in rural North Carolina they could find Nicole's body, Pettitt said.
Pettitt said that after Keepers was read her rights, however, she became emotional and then admitted to helping plan the alleged murder. According to Pettitt, Keepers told investigators that she and Eisenhauer, 18, had planned it over a meal at a cookout restaurant in Blacksburg, Virginia, where Nicole lived and where they went to school. She said that she and Eisenhauer had bought a shovel together before Nicole's death, Pettitt said.
A Family Breaks Down in Court
Keepers and her parents testified at the bond hearing today in Virginia. The judge denied the request because he did not believe Keepers, whose family lives in Maryland, has sufficient ties to keep her from fleeing Virginia.
Keepers said on the stand that she has anxiety issues and has been on Prozac since October but has been given half her normal dosage since being taken into police custody.
Keepers and her parents started crying during their respective testimonies today.
"It's kind of like being punched in the stomach," her father, Tim Keepers, said of what it was like to receive the call about his daughter being allegedly involved in a murder plot.
Her father, an aerospace engineer, said he had already contacted an electronic monitoring company so she could be fitted with an ankle bracelet if she returned to their home in Maryland, but the judge still denied her release.
During the hearing, Keepers' parents said they believed she and Eisenhauer, who’s also from Maryland, became friends in the fall. He said he had heard Eisenhauer took his daughter to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy.
The focus of today's hearing was on Keepers' alleged involvement, so little was revealed about how Eisenhauer initially got in touch with Nicole. But prosecutor Pettitt made it clear that Keepers had never met Nicole before the alleged abduction and killing.
"She planned to kill someone she had never met,” Pettitt said. “Someone she had never even spoken to.”