BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) – Two Virginia Tech engineering students have been arrested in connection with the death of a 13-year-old girl whose disappearance last week from her Virginia home set off a frantic, four-day search.
Blacksburg Police say David Eisenhauer, 18, was arrested Saturday and charged with first-degree murder and abduction in the death of Nicole Madison Lovell, who disappeared from her home Wednesday. Natalie Keepers, of Laurel, Maryland, was arrested Sunday and faces charges of improper disposal of a body and accessory after the fact in the commission of a felony.
Both are being held without bond at the Montgomery County Jail.
“Based on the evidence collected to date, investigators have determined that Eisenhauer and Nicole were acquainted prior to her disappearance. 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,” Blacksburg police said in a statement.
Virginia State Police located Lovell’s remains Saturday afternoon in Surry County, North Carolina, just over the Virginia border. Hours later, police announced the arrest of Eisenhauer, a freshman from Columbia, Maryland.
State police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said Sunday that a search and recovery team is searching a pond on the Virginia Tech Campus. She would not say what officials were trying to find.
The Roanoke Times newspaper quoted to Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson as saying that Eisenhauer has not confessed to involvement in Lovell’s death and did not give police information that led to the discovery of her body.
Police initially charged Eisenhauer with abduction; he was charged with murder once the girl’s remains were found.
The girl had been missing since last week. Her family says she disappeared after pushing a dresser in front of her bedroom door and climbing out a window. Lovell’s family members did not immediately return messages seeking comment Sunday.
Davy Draper, who said he’s a close family friend who knew Lovell most of her life, said she had a liver transplant when she was a child and had to take daily medication. But despite her health problems, Draper said Lovell was an energetic and outspoken girl who got along with everyone.
“She was an awesome little girl. She was an angel here on Earth and she’s an angel now,” Draper said.
Eisenhauer was as a standout track and field athlete in high school, who was named Boys Indoor Track Performer of the Year by the Baltimore Sun in March. The Sun said Eisenhauer had moved to Columbia from Yakima, Washington for his junior year and quickly became a star on the East Coast. His coach told the newspaper that Eisenhauer was “the best-kept secret in Maryland.”
Joe Keating, who said he was a co-captain alongside Eisenhauer on the Wilde Lake High School track team, described him as a normal kid who seemed to enjoy being at school and never started any problems. Keating said he’s “appalled” by the thought that Eisenhauer could be involved in Lovell’s death.
“All of my friends that knew him, that graduated with him, as well as everyone on the team, we’re just in total shock about this entire thing. We would never have seen this coming,” Keating said.
Virginia Tech said on its website that Eisenhauer was a freshman engineering major at the school and that hundreds of students and researchers had assisted in the search for Lovell. The school said in a statement Saturday that he has been suspended from the university.
A number listed for Eisenhauer’s parents was busy Sunday. A message left at Keepers’ home in Laurel, Maryland was not immediately returned. Officials at the county jail where the two are being held would not say whether either suspect has a lawyer.
Virginia Tech president Tim Sands said the case left the school community “in a state of shock and sadness.”
“Speaking on behalf of our community, let me say that our hearts go out to Nicole’s family and friends,” he said in a statement posted to the school’s website.