Former Virginia Tech student Natalie Keepers was sentenced to 40 years in prison for accessory before the fact of first-degree murder on Tuesday, Nov. 27. Keepers’ sentencing has finally put an end to the murder case of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell.
On Jan. 27, 2016, Lovell, who was a student at Blacksburg Middle School at the time, climbed out of her bedroom window to meet with David Eisenhauer, who was a former freshman and track athlete at Virginia Tech. According to prosecutors, Eisenhauer had struck up a relationship with Lovell and decided to conceal the relationship by killing her.
Eisenhauer allegedly then drove Lovell to a wooded area in Montgomery County and stabbed her to death. Later that day, Eisenhauer and Keepers, who was also a freshman at Virginia Tech, allegedly moved Lovell’s body to Surry County, North Carolina.
Lovell’s body was discovered a few days later. On Jan. 29, 2016, Eisenhauer was arrested in connection to Lovell’s death and Keepers was arrested two days later.
Eisenhauer’s trial began on Feb. 5, 2018, and ended five days later. During which, prosecutors revealed that blood stains, a shovel and cleaning supplies were discovered in Eisenhauer’s car. Lovell’s bag and blanket were discovered in Keepers’ dorm.
On the fifth day of the trial, Eisenhauer entered a no-contest plea after the data recovered from his phone was presented the previous day. Judge Robert Turk found him guilty of all of the three charges he faced, which were first-degree murder, abduction and concealing a dead body.
On June 26, 2018, Eisenhauer was sentenced to 75 years in total for three charges: 60 years for first-degree murder, 10 years for abduction and five years for concealing a dead body. After he serves 50 years in prison, Eisenhauer will be on probation for 20 years.
Eisenhauer’s defense attorneys John Lichtenstein and Tony Anderson of Roanoke asked for a penalty that fell within sentencing guidelines that ranged from 23 years and nine months to 39 years and seven months behind bars. However, Turk said he was exceeding the guidelines because of the seriousness of the crime.
Keepers’ trial began on Sept. 17, 2018, and also lasted five days. Prior to the trial, Keepers pleaded guilty to concealment of a dead body. Keepers’ defense attorneys Kris Olin and John Robertson hoped that some evidence related to the concealment charge could be excluded in the trial in September.
During the trial, the prosecutors presented evidence including security photos of Keepers and Eisenhauer at Cook Out, where they allegedly planned the murder, and Walmart, where the pair purchased a shovel, among other items. In addition, the prosecutors also presented GPS data that mapped the pair’s route to Cook Out and Walmart, as well as a trip near Lovell’s home and a location off of Craig Creek Road where Lovell was reportedly later killed.
The defense made the claim that Keepers was in love with Eisenhauer and the murder would still happen even if Keepers was not involved. However, Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Patrick Jensen presented a series of text messages between Keepers and Eisenhauer following the murder of Lovell. In the messages, Keepers instructed Eisenhauer to get some sleep because he deserved it. Jensen then exclaimed, “She’s proud!”
On the fourth day of the trial, the jury found Keepers guilty of accessory before the fact and recommended a 40-year sentence in prison.
Turk followed the jury’s recommendation and imposed the sentence. Keepers pleaded guilty to concealment of a dead body in August. Turk added five years in prison for the concealment charge, but the term will be suspended after Keepers serves 40 years in prison.
In addition, Keepers is also required to be supervised by a probation officer for 10 years after she serves her prison sentence and cannot have any contact with Lovell’s family.