Nicole Lovell, 13, was reported missing by her mother after she was discovered missing sometime between midnight and 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. Two former Virginia Tech freshmen, David Eisenhauer and Natalie Keepers, have since been implicated in her kidnapping and eventual murder. Eisenhauer’s trial will begin on Feb. 5, 2018, and Keepers’ trial is set for Sept. 17, 2018.
There was immediate concern for Lovell’s life because the 13-year-old was a liver transplant recipient and had needed to take her medication twice a day since she was 10 months old. Her medical history sparked immediate concern from police who were told "it's getting down to the wire" and "she's sick wherever she is," by Tammy Weeks, Nicole’s mother, the Friday following her disappearance.
Members of the Blacksburg and Virginia Tech communities, including members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, aided in the search for Lovell.
The Blacksburg Police Department (BPD) arrested 18-year-old Virginia Tech freshman David Eisenhauer in the morning hours of Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in connection with the disappearance of Lovell. BPD charged Eisenhauer with felony abduction, according to a news release.
“The Blacksburg Police Department, with the assistance of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Town of Christiansburg Police, City of Radford Police, Virginia Tech Police, Virginia State Police and the FBI, have been searching and pursuing countless leads since Nicole Madison Lovell was reported missing,” the release stated.
Lovell was first reported to have been found dead in a Facebook post made by her father David Lovell in the afternoon hours of Saturday. The Blacksburg Police Department had not yet confirmed Lovell’s death, but had scheduled a press conference for 9:30 that night.
"Devestad to learn that my daughter has been found dead! I'm so in shock I know nothing more to say (sic)," the post read. "I'm broken!"
At the press conference, BPD confirmed that it had recovered the deceased remains of Lovell just past the North Carolina border on Route 89 in Surry County, according to Blacksburg Chief of Police Anthony Wilson.
At this time, Eisenhauer, who remained detained at Montgomery County Jail without bond, was charged with first-degree murder. Eisenhauer had not told the police where the remains of Lovell could be found.
Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands issued an open letter to the university community Saturday evening, encouraging those who need counseling to reach out to campus resources. The letter also stated that the university has the authority to place a student on immediate interim suspension in the instance of a felony arrest.
"The entire Virginia Tech community extends its support to Nicole's family and friends," the VTPD release stated. "The university is also reaching out to our campus community and the greater New River Valley community who may be affected by the events that have occurred over the past several days."
Eisenhauer was previously a member of the Virginia Tech cross-country team in the fall semester, but his athlete profile page was deleted from the HokieSports website, along with his name on the team roster, soon after his arrest.
The Blacksburg Police Department announced it was working with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, FBI Charlotte, North Carolina, Field Office and the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office in the ongoing investigation. It was also announced that Lovell’s remains would be transported to the medical examiner’s office in Roanoke to undergo an autopsy.
On Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, a second Virginia Tech student, 19-year-old Natalie Keepers, was taken into custody by police in connection to Lovell’s murder. BPD stated that Keepers had helped Eisenhauer dispose of Lovell’s body, and Keepers was charged with one felony count of improper disposal of a dead body and one misdemeanor count of accessory after the fact in the commission of a felony. Keepers was also held at Montgomery County Jail without bond.
“Based on the evidence collected to date, investigators have determined that Eisenhauer and Nicole were acquainted prior to her disappearance,” a Blacksburg Police Department press release stated. “Eisenhauer used this relationship to his advantage to abduct the 13-year-old and then kill her. Keepers helped Eisenhauer dispose of Nicole’s body.”
Eisenhauer and Keepers were both arraigned Monday morning.
According to a press release by Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt, the students' next hearing date was set for March 28 for a preliminary hearing in juvenile and domestic relations court.
On Feb. 4, 2016, Natalie Keepers was denied bond after Montgomery County prosecutor Mary Pettitt said that prior to Lovell’s disappearance in the previous week, Keepers worked with Eisenhauer to plan the abduction and murder. The two had allegedly selected an isolated area on Craig Creek Road for the killing and also purchased a shovel. Eisenhauer allegedly intended to take Lovell from her home on the night of her disappearance and cut her throat.
It was also found on May 4, 2016, that Eisenhauer had been texting a Pulaski man about finding a place to hide a body prior to the death of Lovell, according to information The Roanoke Times discovered from a search warrant.
The text conversations between the two included “needing ‘a place to hide a body near you’ and ‘original plan failed,’” according to The Roanoke Times.
At the time of their arraignment, BPD investigators and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office had not released motives for the alleged murder. Eisenhauer and Keepers both stated at the time that they had no part in Lovell’s death.
Several news outlets, including the Washington Post and CNN, reported that investigators familiar with the case believed Eisenhauer had an inappropriate relationship with Lovell after meeting her online on the instant messaging app Kik before her abduction.
According to recently revealed court documents, Keepers revealed to police that Eisenhauer worried Lovell was pregnant just weeks before her murder.
On March 23, 2016, it was announced that court dates for Eisenhauer and Keepers were moved from their original date of March 28 to May 20 for a preliminary hearing after an initial postponement. The hearings were postponed after the Eisenhauer and Keepers defense teams indicated they needed additional time to prepare for the court appearances. County prosecutors also indicated they had yet to receive the final medical examiner's report.
Both Eisenhauer and Keepers appeared at Montgomery County’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court together on the morning of May 20, 2016, for a preliminary hearing.
During the hearing, evidence was provided from a Jan. 30, 2016, police interview with Keepers in which she revealed her and Eisenhauer’s roles in the murder of Lovell. Keepers admitted to helping to plan the murder and dispose the body. Keepers stated however that Eisenhauer murdered Lovell alone. Eisenhauer maintained that he did not kill Lovell.
A judge ruled in March 2017 that some parts of Keepers’ Jan. 30, 2016, confession to police will not be admissible in court because of improper interrogation techniques.
Trial dates for both Eisenhauer and Keepers have been moved several times to to allow for additional forensic and cell phone evidence to be admitted. On Oct. 11, 2017, it was announced that the start date for the 2018 trial for Eisenhauer would be determined at the Nov. 6 hearing.
During the Nov. 6 hearing, Judge Robert Turk set David Eisenhauer's new trial date to begin on Feb. 5, 2018, and last until the 16th at least.
It was announced on Jan. 23, 2018, that the trial of Keepers had been moved to Sept. 17, 2018, according to Montgomery County Circuit Court records. The trial had originally been set for March 27, 2018. Both Eisenhauer and Keepers remain in jail without bond.