A pair of Virginia Tech students have been arrested in connection with the murder of a 13-year-old girl, who vanished from her home last week and whose body was discovered Saturday, dumped near a North Carolina highway.
Police charged David Eisenhauer, 18, of Columbia, Maryland, with first-degree murder after the remains of Nicole Madison Lovell were discovered over the weekend. Cops took the star athlete into custody late Friday and initially charged him with abduction.
Natalie Keepers, 19, of Laurel, Maryland, was charged with one felony count of improper disposal of a dead body, as well as one misdemeanor count of accessory after the fact in the commission of a felony. Authorities said Keepers, a former NASA intern, helped dump the girl’s body.
As cops announced the second arrest Sunday, dive teams searched a pond at the Virginia Tech campus as part of the murder probe, which includes the FBI, Virginia State Police and North Carolina Bureau of Investigation.
Eisenhauer and Keepers—both Virginia Tech engineering students—are being held without bail at Montgomery County Jail in Virginia, police said.
It’s unclear how the 13-year-old Nicole and college-aged Eisenhauer were acquainted, but Blacksburg police Lt. Mike Albert said they knew each other before the girl disappeared.
“Eisenhauer used this relationship to his advantage, to abduct and then kill her,” Albert said, according to The Roanoke Times.
While cops are releasing few details, Nicole's mother said she was told Nicole met Eisenhauer online a few weeks ago.
“That’s all I know,” Tammy Weeks told The Washington Post on Sunday. “It was some off-the-wall site I never heard of.”
Nicole was reported missing from her mother's Blacksburg apartment Wednesday, Jan. 27, after relatives found a dresser pushed up against her bedroom door. The girl’s uncle, Fred Hawks Jr., told The Roanoke Times her family believes she climbed out a window.
He described his niece as a “typical teenager” who went to the mall with friends just before she disappeared. “We just miss her,” the worried uncle told the newspaper. “We want her to come home.”
On Thursday, Nicole’s father made an impassioned plea for her safe return.
“Nicole, honey, if you see this, if you’re out there, you can come to me,” David Lovell said in an interview with WDBJ. “I’m not mad at you. I’m worried about you. Your family’s worried about you. Just come home.”
Relatives said the seventh-grader took medication for a liver transplant. They were going to administer her meds on Wednesday when they realized she was gone, The Roanoke Times reported.
David Lovell told the Wytheville News it wasn’t like his daughter to leave home without her medication.
“I find it strange she didn’t take her medicine,” he said. “When she spent the weekend here, she always took her medicine on time. She always knew when to take it.”
Nicole’s family said her phone appeared to be off since she vanished and that she hadn’t posted on Facebook since Tuesday.
A missing child poster indicated Nicole was last seen between midnight and 7 a.m. on Jan. 27. She was wearing black jeans, a gray striped Mossy Oak shirt, brown-and-pink cowboy boots, and a blue blanket with the animated “Minions” characters.
The police notice said she had a tracheotomy scar on her throat and required prescription medication.
But hope turned to heartbreak on Saturday when authorities discovered Nicole’s body along a highway, just over the Virginia border in Surry County, North Carolina—some 90 miles south of Blacksburg.
“This has been an extremely fast investigation within just the past 12 hours,” Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson said in a statement. “And we still have a great deal to do as there are multiple interviews to conduct and evidence to [be] collected and analyzed as we reconstruct the timeline of events leading up to Nicole's tragic death.”
Police zeroed in on Eisenhauer, a freshman and member of Virginia Tech’s cross-country team, late Friday, according to reports. University officials removed his profile from the school’s athletics website after he was charged Saturday.
As a high school track star, Eisenhauer was profiled by Baltimore’s WMAR for a “Student Athlete of the Week” segment in March 2015.
“I just have this internal thing saying I want to be the best,” Eisenhauer said in TV spot. “There is no reason I cannot be as good as other people are.”
He added, “I will personally not stop until I reach my peak performance, which could be anywhere.”
Eisenhauer moved to Maryland from Washington state his junior year, the Associated Press reported. Last year, his track coach at Wilde Lake High School told The Baltimore Sun that Eisenhauer was “the best-kept secret in Maryland.”
Joe Keating, a co-captain on the track team, told the Associated Press that Eisenhauer was a normal guy who never started any problems.
“All of my friends that knew him, that graduated with him, as well as everyone on the team, we’re just in total shock about this entire thing. We would never have seen this coming,” Keating said.
Eisenhauer did not confess to the alleged crime and did not tell police where to find Nicole’s body, authorities said.
Meanwhile, Keepers is a Virginia Tech sophomore who, according to her LinkedIn page, plans to double major in aerospace and ocean engineering.
“No matter what the end-goal is, I will work till I reach that goal,” Keepers wrote on her profile. “I have already worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and I am eager to continue my journey as an Aerospace and Ocean Engineer.”
Nicole was the youngest of four siblings and attended Blacksburg Middle School, her mother told The Washington Post.
“She was a typical student,” Weeks told the Post. “She didn’t like going to school because she was bullied. She was telling me that girls were saying she was fat and talking about her scars from her transplant.”
Weeks said classmates continued to pick on her daughter—who survived a liver transplant, MRSA and lymphoma at age 5—on social media.
“God got her through all that, and she fought through all that, and he took her life,” Weeks told the Post, referring to her alleged killer. “That evil bastard took her life.”
A review of Nicole’s Facebook page shows she belonged to several teen dating and picture-rating groups, including, “2015 Teens Cute Or Nah,” “Cute or Nah active 24/7” and “Netflix And Chill?” and may have used them to meet boys online.
Her Facebook intro section said, “I'm Nicole I'm dating Jacob I love football basketball and singing and songwriting.”
In October, she posted an image of heart-eyed smiley emojis with the words, “I’m taken” and pictures of a teen boy lifting up his shirt.
When an adult Facebook friend commented, “Who plz answer who the heck is that,” Nicole replied, “My new boyfriend.”
The adult woman added, “Like who” and “How old,” and Nicole commented, “15 and Ronnie mother.”
She also posted screenshots of herself video-chatting with another teenage male, whose Instagram account is rife with bathroom selfies.
Five weeks ago, the male commented on Instagram, “So bored somebody call me,” along with his phone number.
On another recent Instagram post, the male user was accused of preying on teen girls.
“You are a freakin pervert !!!” one girl commented on his post. “You pick NINE TO TWELVE year old girls and are inappropriate with them … YOU NEED TO STOP NOW!!"