BLACKSBURG — The Virginia Tech student charged with killing teen Nicole Madison Lovell knew the girl and an investigation shows that he used that relationship to abduct her before disposing of her body with the assistance of another Tech student, police said Sunday.
Blacksburg police announced the second Tech student’s arrest, one day after Tech freshman David Edmond Eisenhauer, 18, of Columbia, Maryland, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and abduction. Lovell’s remains were discovered Saturday in Surry County, North Carolina.
The second Tech student, Natalie Marie Keepers, 19, of Laurel, Maryland, was arrested Sunday morning and faces a felony charge of improper disposal of a body and a separate misdemeanor charge of accessory after the fact in the commission of a felony, Blacksburg police Lt. Mike Albert said at a news conference.
Both are being held without bond in the Montgomery County jail, Albert said.
Albert said Eisenhauer and Lovell “were acquainted” before her disappearance Wednesday from her home in the Lantern Ridge apartment complex in Blacksburg, where family members found a dresser pushed up against her door.
“Eisenhauer used this relationship to his advantage, to abduct and then kill her,” Albert said.
Lovell’s mother, Tammy Weeks, said in an interview Sunday that police came to her house about 2 p.m. Saturday to tell her that her daughter’s body had been found.
“I’m shocked,” said Weeks, 43, a cashier at a local department store. “I’m hurt. It’s unbelievable.”
Weeks said 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. “That evil b------ took her life.”
Weeks said Sunday that she was at the funeral home, making arrangements for her daughter. “We can’t believe this happened,” she said. “You never think it would happen to you.”
Albert wouldn’t say how Eisenhauer met Lovell, a student at Blacksburg Middle School. Keepers’ connection to Lovell and Eisenhauer also is unclear.
“She was a typical student,” Weeks said about her daughter. “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.”
Lovell often cried to stay home from school, her mother said. “We discussed it with teachers, but it got worse. It got so bad I wouldn’t send her.”
But the bullying, her mother said, continued on social media. “They can’t control those kids on social media,” Weeks said.
Weeks said she was told that her daughter met Eisenhauer online a few weeks ago. “That’s all I know,” she said. “It was some off-the-wall site I never heard of.”
Lovell, who was born in Radford, loved pandas, and she decorated her room with the stuffed bears and also pillows of the “Minions” characters.
She wanted to be on “American Idol” when she got older.
“She loved to sing and dance,” Weeks said. “She loved anything to do with 5 Seconds of Summer. She loved country music too — Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty. She liked Jason Aldean, Sam Hunt, all of them. I took her to a Brad Paisley concert when they had it at Tech.”
Blacksburg police’s investigation is ongoing and being aided by several other agencies, including Virginia State Police, Albert said. The police department has received about 300 tips related to Lovell’s death and still is pursuing evidence, he said. Some of those tips led police to Lovell’s body, which was found near North Carolina Highway 89, just inside that state’s border.
Sunday, police were on Tech’s campus, where a search and recovery team was searching a pond on the school’s campus in connection with Lovell’s death, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
The pond is located by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and baseball field near Southgate Drive. After a few hours, divers were forced to stop because the water temperature dropped. They are expected to return Monday.
Eisenhauer and Keepers’ parents could not be reached for comment. A woman who answered the phone at the Eisenhauer‘s’ Columbia, Maryland, home in Columbia on Saturday hung up before answering questions.
Eisenhauer, was an elite athlete and track star at Wilde Lake High School in Howard County, Maryland. In 2014, while he was a junior, he won the Class 3A Maryland title for the 3,200-meter race, according to a Washington Post account.
Eric Smart, who was also on the high school cross-country team, said the accusations against Eisenhauer were devastating. He said that his former teammate was focused on academics and his career and that he didn’t seem violent.
Eisenhauer and Keepers both are engineering students at Tech. A Tech spokesman, Mark Owczarski, would not say whether the two had been suspended. Campus rules allow the immediate interim suspension of students charged with a felony.
The two Tech students appear to have been active in extracurricular activities during their first year on campus. Eisenhauer was listed as a member of the school’s cross country team but following his arrest his name was removed from the team’s online roster.
Keepers participated in the college’s Hypatia Female Engineering Society, a learning community for female first-year engineering students, according to her LinkedIn biography. She also participated in the college’s robotic sailing program, SailBOT. The group’s “about” page, which listed her involvement, appeared to have been removed Sunday.
Outside the students’ dorms on Sunday were officers and signs directing members of the media away. “Residents and escorted guests only,” the sign read.
Lovell is believed to have gone missing sometime between midnight Tuesday and 7 a.m. Wednesday. Her uncle, Fred Hawks Jr., has said they realized the girl was missing when they went to give Lovell medication for a liver condition related to her liver transplant. That was when they found the dresser pushed up against the door and reported her missing.
Online, Lovell’s family and friends have been memorializing the 13-year-old and changing their profile photos to a drawing of a panda on a sparkly purple background in her honor. Many were also reporting the “teen dating” pages that Lovell participated in before her disappearance.
On Saturday, a Facebook page had been created to support the search for Nicole, and it bore the words “Keep hope alive.”
A comment posted on the site under the name of David Lovell said he was the girl’s father.
The posting said he was devastated “to learn that my daughter has been found dead! I’m so in shock I know nothing more to say, I’m broken!”
Roanoke Times staff writers Amy Friedenberger and Robby Korth and The Washington Post contributed to this report.