A 13-year-old girl who recently had a liver transplant has been found dead on the side of a road, and a freshman athlete at Virginia Tech has been charged in her murder. Nicole Lovell, who had been missing for days, vanished after she pushed a dresser against her bedroom door and crawled out a window of her home in Blacksburg, Virginia.
She had left home without medication she needed daily after her liver transplant. David Eisenhauer, an 18-year-old freshman engineering student from Columbia, Maryland, was charged on 30 January with felony abduction in Nichole's disappearance, reports the Baltimore Sun.
The charges have been upgraded to first-degree murder. Police said they acted on tip and information on social media to arrest him.
Police also arrested Eisenhauer's girlfriend, Maryland resident Natalie Keepers, for allegedly helping to dispose of the body, Associated Press reported.
Eisenhauer did not tell investigators where Lovell's body was, Blacksburg police chief Anthony Wilson said at a press conference. He provided almost no details on how she was located, but said authorities received numerous tips leading them to a lonely road in North Carolina some 100 miles (161km) from her home.
"This was a huge investigation from the onset," he said. "These are the kinds of crimes that rip communities apart."
Police officials said Eisenhauer knew the girl before they met up, but he offered no details.
"Eisenhauer used this relationship to his advantage, to abduct and then kill her," said Blacksburg police Lt. Mike Albert. Nicole's mother, Tammy Weeks, told the Washington Post that she was told her daughter met Eisenhauer online.
Police are carefully searching the area where Nicole's body was found, and are hoping for evidence from her autopsy. "This is a sad day for the Blacksburg community," said Mayor Ron Rodan. "As a parent, I know that this is an unbearable loss for the Lovell family."
The school immediately suspended Eisenhauer, a former high school track standout who had joined the university's cross country team. He is reported to be one of Maryland's top high school runners. He remains in Montgomery County jail without bail.
University officials said hundreds of its students were involved in the search for the missing teen, including researchers using drones. "The entire Virginia Tech community extends its support to Nicole's family and friends," the school said in a statement.