Tracking the route
The prosecution began day four of David Eisenhauer’s trial in connection with the homicide of Nicole Lovell by calling upon its first witness of the day, Deena Jones of the Blacksburg Police Department (BPD). Jones was an intelligence analyst at the time of the homicide, and was tasked with taking data from a Garmin GPS obtained from Eisenhauer’s possession and placing the points tracked on the GPS into a route that shows the GPS’ movement on Jan. 26, 2016, and Jan. 27, 2016.
On the night of Jan. 26, the route shows movement from the Virginia Tech campus to the Target and Walmart in Christiansburg, then a stop at the Cook Out in Blacksburg on South Main, and a trip to a location off Craig Creek Road before looping back to campus.
The defense then cross-examined Jones, and pointed out that the route tracked on the GPS back to the parking lot where Eisenhauer presumably parked his car was not the most efficient route to the lot, and that clusters of GPS points indicate that the vehicle slowed or stopped at the intersection of Beamer Way and Washington Street — which the defense identified as being close in proximity to Lee Hall, where Keepers lived.
Chance Harrington, an asset protection associate at the Walmart in Wytheville, was next called upon to confirm for the jury through sales records and surveillance images that Keepers and Eisenhauer purchased disinfectant wipes, bleach and gloves at 8:17 p.m. on Jan. 27.
Detective Desiree Twigger then presented images of Keepers and Eisenhauer purchasing a shovel at the Christiansburg Walmart and ordering at the counter of the Blacksburg Cook Out on Jan. 26.
Next, Patrol Officer Austin Sumners, Corporal Jason Brooks and then-Detective Kale Craver, the fourth, fifth and sixth witnesses respectively, testified to finding gloves, a bag containing a bleach bottle and disinfectant wipes with brown-red stains on them in dumpsters at a parking lot on the Virginia Tech campus after Nicole Lovell had been reported missing.
Julie Wesel, a systems manager at Virginia Tech’s Hokie Passport office, testified next to describe when Keepers and Eisenhauer had swiped into their residence halls. Eisenhauer swiped into West Ambler-Johnston at 11:21 p.m. on Jan. 26, and didn’t swipe in again until several hours later on Jan. 27 at 2:37 a.m. Natalie Keepers swiped into Lee Hall at 11:05 p.m. on Jan. 26, and didn’t swipe in again until 11:35 a.m. on Jan. 27. On Jan. 29, both Keepers and Eisenhauer swiped into their residence halls for the final time.
Travis Harvey, an employee of BPD, was the eighth witness called by the prosecution on day four, and described a forensic examination of Eisenhauer taken at Carilion Memorial Hospital in Roanoke after Eisenhauer’s arrest. A Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK) was taken during the examination, according to Harvey, and the kit was delivered by the ninth witness called, M.P. Czernicki, in a sealed state to a forensics lab in Roanoke.
Nicole Harold, a forensic science supervisor with the Virginia Forensic Department, testified as an expert witness. Harold discussed how she used technology to identify DNA from possible pieces of evidence and then compared that to DNA obtained from Eisenhauer and Keepers through a PERK, and from Lovell during an autopsy. Through this process, Harold was able to identify that on a disinfectant wipe container, a shovel, three swabs, three cleaning wipes, blue cleaning gloves, a blanket, a wooden stick and boots obtained from Keepers, Eisenhauer and Keepers could be eliminated as DNA matches while Lovell could not.
Other pieces of evidence, such as four cleaning wipes, a washcloth and a pair of underpants were not able to produce a DNA analysis. Harold also testified that items such as the underpants had indications that cleaning fluid had come into contact with the material, and that this might have been why DNA analysis was not able to be conducted.
Next, Cory Barote, a forensic scientist specializing in latent prints at the Virginia Department of Forensics Science, testified as an expert witness. Barote used fingerprints and palm cards taken from Eisenhauer and Keepers and compared them to latent prints which were found on pieces of evidence. A disinfecting wipes container that was found in the trunk of Eisenhauer’s car contained seven latent prints, five of which were able to be identified as Eisenhauer’s while the remaining two were inconclusive.
A shovel and disinfectant wipes found in the backseat of Eisenhauer’s car and a white plastic Walmart bag found in a Virginia Tech dumpster were revealed to have latent prints belonging to Keepers.
Cell phone seizure
Twigger then came back into the courtroom, and revealed she had seized a cell phone from Eisenhauer’s person when he was arrested and that someone else had seized Keepers’ phone after her arrest. Reports extracted from Keepers’ phone were presented as evidence and showed that a Kik user account “hugsalskdzfhz” under the name “Rachel Goldsboro” was associated with Keepers’ phone. The report also showed that contacts associated with Eisenhauer were linked to Keepers’ phone.
The prosecution moved to present records of electronic communication between Keepers and Eisenhauer, which led the defense to request that the jury leave the courtroom and to object to the use of this evidence. After objecting to the evidence by saying it was hearsay and had no foundation within the case, the defense said they were not aware this evidence would be presented at this time and asked for time with the defendant.
After speaking with Eisenhauer, the prosecution and the defense continued to deliberate outside the courtroom, until court was adjourned until 9 a.m on Friday.
This is a developing story. The Collegiate Times will continue to update it throughout the trial.