The former Virginia Tech student on trial for the 2016 slaying of a 13-year-old girl he met online has pleaded no contest to charges of first-degree murder, abduction and concealing a dead body.
David Eisenhauer entered his plea Friday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, bringing an abrupt end to a trial that had include days of testimony about the abduction and brutal stabbing death of Nicole Lovell. The prosecution told jurors in opening statements Tuesday that Eisenhauer killed Nicole and dumped her body across the border in North Carolina because he was worried about his relationship with an underage girl.
A no contest plea means Eisenhauer, while not admitting to the crime, would no longer fight the prosecution’s case. It results in convictions.
Nicole’s mother Tammy Weeks was shaking as she read remarks after the plea.
“I was blessed to be Nicole’s mother. To be her friend for 13 years. We fought every fight together but this last one,” Weeks said. She said her daughter “ will always rest in our hearts, and no amount of time will ever change that.”
Eisenhauer’s plea brings “some resolution and some justice” to Nicole death, which shocked the Blacksburg and Virginia Tech communities, Montgomery County, Va., Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt said at the news conference Friday.
“The justice system is just incapable of healing this loss for Nicole’s family, Nicole’s friends or the community,” Pettitt said. “We all suffer with the loss of this little girl.”
Pettitt declined to answer questions and noted that she still has another defendant to try in connection to the murder. Natalie Keepers, who was Eisenhauer’s friend and classmate at Virginia Tech, is charged with accessory to murder before the fact and concealing a dead body, and is scheduled to go on trial in September.
“Today there were no winners,” Blacksburg Police Department Chief Anthony Wilson said at the news conference. “If we had won, we wouldn’t be in this room and Nicole would be in Blacksburg Middle School where she belongs.”
In his own words, Eisenhauer told FBI Special Agent Travis Witt how he met the teen in an anonymous online chatroom before the two began messaging on Kik, another social media platform. Eisenhauer, then 18, was an engineering major and had been a state-champion runner for Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md.
Witt was questioning Eisenhauer about the disappearance of the 13-year-old girl as a massive search was underway to find her. The interview, captured on video and played in court this week, showed Eisenhauer explaining how he thought Nicole was 16 or 17. But when he arrived at her house the early morning of Jan. 27, he told Witt, he saw “someone who is maybe 11-years-old climb out of a window,” and thought “uh uh not for me.”
While Eisenhauer told Witt he then left without her, Pettitt laid out the evidence against Eisenhauer in her opening statements. She said his DNA was found under Nicole’s fingernails, her blood was found in the trunk of his car and Eisenhauer had done Internet searches of things like “Knock out drugs”; “How long does it take to burn a body”; and “How does the tv serial killer Dexter get rid of bodies.”
The defense had tried to shift the blame of the murder to Keepers, saying that she had admitted to police her involvement in the murder with the “sole exception” of being at the scene. Defense attorney John Lichtenstein said Keepers involvement brought into question: “Who actually committed this murder?”
An attorney representing Keepers has declined to comment on the defense’s statements.
In court, Pettitt said the evidence pointed to Eisenhauer, telling jurors the story of a self conscious seventh-grade girl who was excited about her “secret date.” Instead, Eisenhauer took her into the woods and “coldly and ruthlessly” stabbed her 14 times, in the chest and throat, the prosecutor said.
Nicole’s family and friends, all dressed in Nicole’s favorite color blue, sat in the courtroom Tuesday and listened as her mother described the moment she realized her daughter was missing. Holding back tears, she said the next time she saw Nicole was “in her coffin.”
In another video interview from 2016 played in court this week, Eisenhauer told Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy Matthew Wilburn that he didn’t want to go to jail and didn’t do anything wrong.
Eventually, he asked: “Do you think there’s enough evidence to convict me?”
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