UPDATE: Trial underway for accused accomplice to Blacksburg teen’s murder

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The trial for an ex-Virginia Tech student accused of concealing a body and being an accomplice in the murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell in January of 2016 is underway. 

Natalie Keepers pleaded guilty to the charge of concealing a body in August.  She is now facing a trial for the charge of accessory before the fact-1st-degree murder.

Eisenhauer was sentenced to fifty years in prison in June 2018. 

On Wednesday, the third day of trial, the Commonwealth called Special Agent Shaun Caudell with Virginia State Police to testify.

Special Agent Shaun Caudell testified he searched the dorm room of Natalie Keepers. He explained he took pictures of Natalie Keepers dorm room and said they found a suitcase with a gym bag in it which had a blanket in it. The blanket was shown to the courtroom and it had minion cartoon characters on the blanket. 

Forensic Science Supervisor Nicole Harold testified that the blood found on the minion blanket was mostly likely Lovell’s blood. 

The Commonwealth called Detective Desiree Twigger from the Blacksburg Police Department to testify.

Commonwealth’s Attorney, Mary Pettitt asked Detective Twigger if she asked David Eisenhauer for his phone. Detective Twigger testified that Eisenhauer did hand over his phone. The jury was shown pictures of Walmart surveillance video of David Eisenhauer and Natalie Keepers. In the photos, Natalie Keepers and David Eisenhauer were looking at shovels and in another photo, Natalie Keepers holding the shovel. The jury was also shown pictures of surveillance video taken at Cook Out which shows Natalie Keepers and David Eisenhauer there.

Deana Jones with the Blacksburg Police Department testified she took data from Eisenhauer’s GPS system and analyzed it. She testified she looked specifically at January 26 and January 27 of 2016.

On January 26, the data shows the GPS system going from Virginia Tech to the Walmart in Christiansburg. On January 26, after the Walmart trip, the data shows the GPS system tracks a trip from Virginia Tech to the Cook Out and then goes to Craig Creek Road. Then after that trip, on January 26, the GPS system tracks a trip to Nicole Lovell’s house then goes to Craig Creek Road, then back to the Virginia Tech campus. The GPS coordinates and the trips it took were shown to the jury to corroborate the pictures from surveillance video taken at Walmart and Cook Out of Natalie Keepers and David Eisenhauer together.  

Detective Czernicki with the Blacksburg Police Department told the jury he went to where the crime scene was supposed to be on Craig Creek Road. He said he did an area search along Craig Creek Road but saw no evidence of a crime. He said law enforcement then went to a different location on Craig Creek Road where they found evidence that a crime had been committed. 

Detective Czernicki said on January 31st, 2016, he with a team of law enforcement officers were tasked with searching David Eisenhauer’s car. Detective Czernicki explained there was a shovel and Clorox wipes in Eisenhauer’s car. He said he saw something that looked like dried blood in the trunk of Eisenhauer’s car. He also found a bloodstained candy bar wrapper was also found in the trunk of the car. The jury is shown pictures of Eisenhauer’s car after it was searched along with pictures of the shovel.

As was done in Eisenhauer’s trial, the shovel is taken out of the evidence bag and is shown to the jury. 

On Tuesday, September 18, opening arguments were held in the morning.

Natalie Keepers’ defense attorney, John Robertson, said the jury will have to guess what Natalie Keepers was thinking at the time David Eisenhauer was planning the murder.

Robertson alleges Keepers said she doubted David Eisenhauer would commit this murder. Robertson said Keepers said she thought it as a fantasy and it wasn’t real and playing along in some game. Robertson promised the jury they will show the full videotaped statements. 

During opening arguments from the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Mary Pettitt, she alleges Keepers had never met Nicole, never texted Nicole. Pettitt alleges Keepers told detectives she helped plan the murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell. Pettitt alleges Keepers knew Nicole Lovell was going to die that night in January of 2016. 

Messages between Keepers and Eisenhauer were read to the jury. Those messages said, “I smell like cleaning supplies.” “Yeah, I’m going to take a shower.” From day one to day two of the interviews, Detective Hite testified that from his perspective on day two, Keepers was in the custody of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office and she was charged with two charges including the concealing the body charge. Keepers was 18 years of age and was considered an adult at the time she signed her Miranda rights.

Natalie Keepers’ defense attorney, Kristopher Olin, cross-examined Detective Ryan Hite. He asked Detective Hite if they ever told Natalie Keepers that she was free to go. Detective Hite said he didn’t recall saying those words specifically.

In cross-examination, Olin asked Detective Hite about the atmosphere of the Blacksburg Police Department at the time they brought Natalie Keepers in for questioning. Olin asks why Detective Hite did not read Keepers her Miranda Rights on the first day that they questioned her. Detective Hite responded that at that time Keepers was a character witness and was not a suspect.

Detective Hite testified that he kept having to ask for Keepers to be honest and truthful with them. A taped video interview was played from a police interview conducted back in 2016 when Keepers was in custody.

In the video, Detective Hite said to Keepers that she needed to be truthful with police. In the taped interview, Keepers tells detectives that “he forced me.” referring to David Eisenhauer. In the taped video interview, Detective Hite said to Keepers, “What he did, he did, that doesn’t involve you.” referring to Eisenhauer. Olin questions Detective Hite about what he meant by that statement and if at

Detective Hite testified at that time, that was the truth. Olin asked Detective Hite if he remembers Keepers asking to call her parents or her boyfriend throughout their time together. Detective Hite says they didn’t want outside distractions to interrupt the flow of information. On the video interview, Keepers said she told Eisenhauer that he should be careful of the situation and to not hurt her (her meaning Nicole Lovell). In the taped interview, Keepers said she wanted to save Nicole and didn’t think Eisenhauer would to kill Nicole.

In an audio-recorded interview, Keepers said in her mind, she thought the spot was so David could talk to Nicole Lovell, but she knew it was to kill her. Time and time again, in the interview, Keepers denies being at the spot when Nicole was murdered. Keepers said she would have stopped it (meaning Nicole’s death) if she was there.  In the audio recording, Keepers keeps changing her story and the detectives keep telling her to be honest.  In the audio interview from 2016, Keepers says Eisenhauer thought of her as a sociopath in training and that Eisenhauer was a sociopath. Keeper’s defense team played an hour and twenty-two minutes of the audio interview.

Detective Hite said he was one of the people who interviewed Natalie Keepers back in January of 2016. Detective Hite said Natalie Keepers told him David Eisenhauer had met an underage girl and that they had “made out” at a party. Detective Hite said Keepers told him Eisenhauer may have had a sexual encounter with the underage girl and they had woke up in a ditch together. Video is played from the taped interview with Natalie Keepers.

In the video, Keepers said Eisenhauer was freaking out because the girl he had been texting from the party was not sixteen like she had told Eisenhauer but that she was thirteen. In the video, police ask Natalie Keepers for her phone. In the video, Keepers also signed a consent form so they could search her phone. Detective Hite said they told Keepers, Nicole Lovell is dead. In the taped interview, Keepers said she thought Eisenhauer was joking and she was sorry she lied. In the video, Keepers said David Eisenhauer had killed the girl and Keepers told detectives where Eisenhauer had killed Nicole Lovell. In the video, Keepers told detectives that she wasn’t there when Nicole Lovell was killed.

She said Eisenhauer stabbed Nicole Lovell. Detective Hite testified that Keepers never said she was there when Eisenhauer killed Nicole. Detective Hite said Keepers told him she had some of Nicole’s belongings including her minions blanket, and her cell phone charger as well as some bloody cleaning wipes. In the taped interview, Natalie Keepers said she helped Eisenhauer pick the spot where Nicole Lovell would be killed.

In the taped interview, Keepers said she and Eisenhauer messaged on Kik about offing her and how he was going to do it. Keepers said she knew Eisenhauer was going to do it as she is crying. In the taped interview, Keepers detailed how Eisenhauer was going to plan to murder Nicole Lovell.

Nicole’s mother, Tammy Weeks-Dowdy is not able to look up during the playing of these taped interviews. In the taped interview, Keepers tells detectives she told Eisenhauer if he shot her, it would be too loud. Keepers said in the taped interview that Eisenhauer had the outline of the plan and he would bounce details off of her. Keepers said she liked being a part of the plan. During Detective Hite’s testimony, Keepers kept her head down.

 In the taped interview, Keepers said that Eisenhauer wanted Keepers to help kill Nicole Lovell. 

Dr. Suzuki, the Chief Assistant Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy on Nicole Lovell, testified on Tuesday.

Dr. Suzuki talked about the autopsy she performed on Nicole Lovell. As Dr. Suzuki discussed the wounds Nicole Lovell suffered, Keepers’ head was down and her hand covered her face. Dr. Suzuki says the fatal wound was a stab wound to the left side of her neck that cut through her jugular vein. Dr. Suzuki said the stab wounds are consistent with being made by a knife.

Tammy Weeks-Dowdy, Nicole Lovell’s mother, said Nicole needed to take medication every day because of the liver transplant that she received when she was little.

Tammy said Nicole did not have a history of running away. Tammy said she noticed when Nicole was missing, her backpack, jacket, minions blanket, and cellphone were all missing.

Tammy gets emotional when talking about seeing Nicole at the funeral home after she had gone missing.

The trial is scheduled to last two weeks. 

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