Montgomery County Courthouse

The Montgomery County Courthouse, Feb. 6, 2018. 

Two years after Nicole Lovell’s death, a recap of the findings that have gripped the nation
Jury selection begins for Tech student charged with murder of 13-year-old girl
Eisenhauer's defense team blames Keepers for Nicole Lovell's death during opening arguments

Initial interrogation

The first witness to be called on the third day of the Commonwealth of Virginia v. David Eisenhauer on Wednesday, Feb. 7, was FBI Agent Travis Witt, who also provided testimony the day before. Before cross-examination of Witt began on Wednesday, Judge Robert Turk instructed the jury to not consider any statements made by Witt during a portion of a tape of his interrogation of Eisenhauer that had been shown in court the day before.

Witt stated that Eisenhauer asked for a lawyer and walked out of the interview room, but was brought back by Blacksburg Police Department (BPD) officers and was not permitted to leave the interrogation room. Part of the taped interrogation was played for the courtroom. In the interview, Eisenhauer states that he did nothing wrong and asks if he would be on the news. Eisenhauer also mentions that he is worried about being associated with the missing 13-year-old girl whom he had seen on the news, referring to Nicole Lovell, and that he doesn't want to go to jail.

Witt reported that Eisenhauer said in his initial interview that he bought a shovel from the Christiansburg Walmart because of the recent snowy weather and that Keepers was with him when he bought the shovel.

Keepers’ position

The defense filed a subpoena to bring Keepers as a witness last Friday. The subpoena filed by Eisenhauer’s defense team covers the duration of the two-week period scheduled for this murder trial.

John Robertson and Kris Olin, Natalie Keepers’ lawyers, asked that Keepers be excused, and claimed that if Keepers is called to the stand, she will invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. According to The Roanoke Times, Turk told Keepers’ attorneys during the jurors’ lunch break that he will not make a ruling on their motion to quash Keepers’ subpoena until Eisenhauer’s lawyers call her to the stand.

Eisenhauer’s room

Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt called upon Shaun Caudell of the Virginia State Police to testify after the lunch break. Caudell searched David Eisenhauer’s dorm room on Jan 30.

Caudell confirmed that a Walmart receipt was found on the floor next to the trash can in David Eisenhauer’s room. The receipt indicated that Eisenhauer purchased items from Walmart, including a shovel, at 4:18 p.m. on Jan. 26.

The prosecution introduced into evidence photos of a maroon backpack belonging to Eisenhauer. Included in the contents were a torn Durex condom wrapper and a green flyer on which Lovell's address is written.

Tony Anderson, one of Eisenhauer’s attorneys, objected and claimed the torn condom wrapper may mislead jurors’ opinions, while other items found in the bag seem irrelevant to the case. Turk overruled the objection.

Finding the phone and blood stain

Chris Grzelak from the Virginia State Police testified that an iPhone 4 that matched the description of Lovell’s phone was found in a pond on the Virginia Tech campus located near the Virginia–Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Grzelak also said that he and his team found a knife near the pond while they were taking a break from the search.

Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Patrick Jensen then called the next witness, detective M.P. Czernicki from BPD.

Czernicki testified that on the evening of Jan. 30, 2016 — three days after Nicole Lovell disappeared — he and an investigative team found a red stain on Craig Creek Road near a traffic cone. It tested positive for blood.

The car search and Keepers’ room

Czernicki was in charge of the search of Eisenhauer’s car, which was found on the Virginia Tech campus. According to testimony from Czernicki, blood stains were found on David Eisenhauer's car in the trunk and on the right rear wheel, back of the passenger's seat, and the back seat.

Paper towels, items of clothing and shoes, a GPS, and a container of sanitizing wipes that had blood on its rim were all discovered in the car.

A long shovel was found in the back seat of Eisenhauer's car with blood stains on the handle. A large palm print was also found on the handle of the shovel. The shovel was shown to the jury in the courtroom and left in front of the witness box throughout Czernicki’s testimony.

Czernicki also discovered a center portion of an OtterBox case for an iPhone 4 in the vehicle.

During cross-examination of the detective, Anderson showed photos taken by the detective of a suitcase recovered from Natalie Keepers’ room. Inside was a gym bag that contained a bloody sock, stick fragment, small terry cloth towel, a pair of women’s underwear and a plastic Walmart bag containing dozens of stained sanitizing wipes and paper towels.

Scene of the crime

Blacksburg police officer Michael Via was called as the next witness. Via testified that he was present at the crime scene on Craig Creek Road on Jan. 31, 2016, along with an FBI crime scene investigation team.

Via testified that a team found a trail of tracks in the snow that led to a clearing on a hill off of Craig Creek Road. A reddish-brown mark believed to be blood at the time was identified in the clearing. An investigation team collected forensic evidence, including blood, hair and soil samples, from the site.

Retrieving data

John Singleton, an agent with Virginia State Police’s high-tech crime division, was the last witness of the day to be called to testify after Via. Singleton stated that he was tasked with recovering files from the Garmin GPS found in Eisenhauer’s car by BPD officer Czernicki. Singleton received the GPS for investigation on Feb. 2, 2016. After recovering the data, Singleton validated the data using several programs, then turned it over to BPD in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Singleton stated that he could not comment on the actual data gained from his investigation.

Court will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8.

This is a developing story. The Collegiate Times will continue to update it throughout the trial.

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