BLACKSBURG, Virginia — A second Virginia Tech student has been charged in the death of a 13-year-old girl whose remains were found in North Carolina, authorities said Sunday.
Natalie M. Keepers, 19, of Laurel, Maryland, was charged Sunday 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, according to the police in Blacksburg, Virginia. Police said Keeper was a Virginia Tech student.
Another Virginia Tech student — David E. Eisenhauer, 18, of Columbia, Maryland — was charged Saturday with murder and felony abduction in the death of Nicole Madison Lovell of Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech is located.
“Based on the evidence collected to date, investigators have determined that Eisenhauer and Nicole were acquainted prior to her disappearance,” police said in a Sunday statement. “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.”
Lovell was last seen between 7 p.m. and midnight Wednesday at her home in Blacksburg, police said.
The family found a dresser pushed against her bedroom door and said the middle-school student probably climbed out the apartment window, according to The Roanoke Times.
The family was worried because Lovell required daily prescription medication for a liver transplant and didn’t carry the medicine with her, police said.
The search ended Saturday afternoon when her body was found about 100 miles away from home, Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson said.
“We were able to determine an approximate area where she might be found,” he said. “Virginia State Police were dispatched to the general area Saturday afternoon, and she was located just inside the North Carolina border on Route 89 in Surry County.”
Police have not given a motive for the death or said how Lovell died.
Suspect was outstanding runner
People who knew the suspects said they couldn’t believe the news about their arrests.
“We’re all just in utter shock,” Joe Keating, who ran cross country with Eisenhauer at Wilde Lake High in Howard County, Maryland, told The Washington Post. ” We can’t get our heads around it.”
Eisenhauer was one of Maryland’s top high school runners, the Post reported. In March, CNN affiliate WMAR named him the station’s high school athlete of the week. In the interview, he talked about his desire to excel in athletics and academics.
“I make my personal goals achievable or just out of reach of achievable,” he told WMAR. “That way I’m always constantly striving to better myself. … I will not stop until I reach my peak performance.”
He was majoring in engineering at Virginia Tech. He was a member of the college cross country team but was “immediately suspended from the the team,” according to school spokesperson Tracy Vosburgh.
Keepers went to Hammond High School in Columbia, Maryland. One of her former teachers at the school told CNN that “I am really shocked and upset, it just doesn’t make any sense to me right now. I have never had anything like this happen in my 36 years of life.”
Girl had survived a liver transplant
Lovell’s mother, Tammy Weeks, told The Washington Post her daughter had survived a liver transplant, MRSA and lymphoma when she was 5.
“God got her through all that, and she fought through all that, and he took her life,” she said.
Weeks said her daughter was a seventh-grader at Blacksburg Middle School.
“She was a typical student,” Weeks said. “She didn’t like going to school because she was bullied. She was telling me that girls were saying she was fat and talking about her scars from her transplant.”
‘It hurts real bad’
Lovell’s disappearance had gripped the picturesque university town of 40,000 people and the school with 30,000 students.
“I’m scared to death,” her father, David Lovell, told CNN affiliate WDBJ-TV before she was found.
Police, the family and members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets searched for the girl, according to a statement from the school.
Some of the girl’s friends learned of her death Saturday night at a candlelight vigil held near her home, reported CNN affiliate WFXR.
“It hurts real bad, but now we know she’s in a better place,” said Kyrra Winters, one of Nicole’s classmates.
“We came out here to pray for Nicole to come home, we didn’t realize until right before, she had been found and she wasn’t going to be coming home,” said Rebecca Lemon, whose daughters were friends with Nicole.
“We leave our doors open here sometimes”
Virginia Tech students said the arrests of fellow students surprised them.
“We leave our doors open here sometimes,” freshman Corey Buck said to WFXR. “People won’t even steal from other rooms here. So to hear that a kid somehow is connected to a 13-year-old girl abduction is pretty sickening.”
“I was really shocked,” said Kendall Richardson, another freshman. “I would not expect anything like that to happen here at Tech. It was a real surprise … especially a freshman student, someone who’s brand-new here — never would have thought that would happen.”
The university said it is reaching out to those affected by the tragedy.
“As a father, as well as Virginia Tech’s president, I want to reassure you that our community is supportive and resilient,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said in an open letter. “Lean on that support and the resources available to you. It is normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed at a time such as this. You are not alone.”
The police chief said the Blacksburg community is reeling from the girl’s death.
“We have some very wounded folks in this community and please show them some respect,” Wilson said. “We will continue to be very transparent with you during this investigation, but please remember these are the kinds of crimes that rip communities apart.”
Divers search campus lake
Police said they arrested Eisenhauer based on tips and leads obtained from social media. Both he and Keepers are being held without bond in the Montgomery County, Virginia, Jail.
CNN is attempting to find out if Eisenhauer and Keepers have retained attorneys.
“The speed at which this investigation has moved today has been nothing less than incredible,” Wilson said Saturday. “We owe that to the outpouring of support and tips from the Blacksburg, Christansburg and Montgomery County communities.”
“We still have a great deal to do,” Wilson said.
Wilson said Lovell’s body was returned for an autopsy, and authorities will work to reconstruct a timeline leading up to her death. On Sunday, Virginia State Police said divers in scuba gear were searching a lake on campus, WDBJ reported.