Keepers Trial 092018 - Keepers guilty, crying

Natalie Keepers reacts to being found guilty by a jury of being an accessory before the fact for the 2016 murder of Nicole Lovell, Christiansburg, Virginia, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.

The defense kicked off the fourth day of Natalie Keepers’ trial for the charge of accessory before the fact to murder by calling three witnesses.

Jonathan Mack, who is a forensic psychologist, was called first. Former Washington, D.C., homicide detective James Trainum was called next. Both were called as expert witnesses, Mack to testify on Keepers’ mental health and its impact on her testimony during interrogation, and Trainum to testify on the interrogation process and its impact on Keepers.

Judge Robert Turk then called a brief recess to determine if an unnamed witness could be called to testify about second-hand information. Once Turk gave the green light, the defense called upon its final witness — referred to as “Miss B” so as to keep the witness’ identity secret — who had an online relationship with David Eisenhauer, a former Virginia Tech student who was convicted of the murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell in February.

According to the witness, she first came into contact with Eisenhauer through Omegle, an online chat service, then mainly communicated with Eisenhauer through Kik, another online chat service. She said that she knew about Eisenhauer’s plans to kill Lovell, and that he brought them up to her about once a week then began to bring the plans up in conversation more frequently.

When asked by the defense if Eisenhauer ever mentioned Keepers to her, “Miss B” said that he mentioned that he had a friend with whom he was planning the murder, but never mentioned a gender, name or age, and only included that his friend had “military knowledge.” Following a question from the defense, she clarified that he did not say that the friend had military experience necessarily, just relevant knowledge.

Following a recess for lunch, the prosecution gave its closing argument. Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Patrick Jensen went over the four elements with the jury that must be proven to convict the defendant of accessory before the fact, and responded to each element with an explanation of proof. Elements include that Eisenhauer killed Lovell, that the crime was malicious, that the killing was willful and premeditated, and that Keepers was an accessory before the fact in the murder.

Jensen showed 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. Jensen also showed 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.

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!”

At the defense table, Keepers shook her head.

In the defense’s closing argument, attorney Kris Olin’s efforts were concentrated in convincing the jury that Keepers was not culpable because she claimed in testimony that she did not actually think that Eisenhauer would kill Lovell.

Olin also tried to illustrate Keepers as someone who was influenced by having a best friend in Eisenhauer, and suggested that Keepers was even possibly in love with Eisenhauer.

Pettitt then rebutted the defense’s closing argument, claiming that Keepers should be held responsible for her actions.

The jury then left the courtroom and started a deliberation that lasted for less than 90 minutes. When the jurors returned, they delivered the verdict that they found Natalie Keepers guilty of accessory before the fact of first-degree murder in the death of Lovell. In addition, it was announced that the jurors will return to deliberate a sentence recommendation Friday morning at 9 a.m.

Keepers was then handcuffed and taken away.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this piece mistakenly identified Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Patrick Jenson as the assistant commonwealth's attorney.

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Meg Connors is a social media editor for the Collegiate Times. She studies political science at Virginia Tech and is a native of Northern Virginia. She previously served as managing editor and copy editor.

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