A 20-year-old Virginia man has pleaded no contest to the murder of a 13-year-old girl who he met online and had an "inappropriate relationship".
David Eisenhauer entered his plea in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Friday, 9 February, to all charges, including first-degree murder, abduction and concealing a body. The former engineering student had killed Nicole Lovell in January 2016 with the help of his girlfriend, Natalie Keepers, because he feared the minor girl would expose their improper relationship.
Keepers has been charged as an accessory and her trial is expected to begin in September, The Daily Mail reported.
Eisenhauer's plea of no contest came few days after the trial began where he acknowledged that there was enough evidence to convict him, but did not admit to the crime. Judge Robert Turk found him guilty and he now faces life in prison plus 15 years. His sentence hearing is scheduled for 22 May and 23 May.
Local media reports stated that during opening statements, the defendant's lawyers tried to blame Keepers for the death of Lovell, who told police that she and Eisenhauer had talked about ways to kill the teenage girl. She also admitted that she helped the freshman to hide the body in North Carolina after Eisenhauer stabbed her.
Lovell's prosecutor, Mary Pettitt, told the court that the girl met Eisenhauer through Kik, a popular social networking app for teenagers. They chatted through the app for months and had met once in person before the grade seven student jumped out of her bedroom window for a "secret date" with him on the midnight of 27 January, 2016.
Her body was found three days later over the state line in North Carolina and medical reports found that she was stabbed at least 14 times before being dumped.
Prosecutors presented a message in court that Lovell sent to Eisenhauer stating: "Dear David, you are my crush but I know you don't think of me like that. I want to be in your life." A piece of paper containing the girl's address on it was also presented as evidence, which was found in Eisenhauer's dorm room and prosecutors showed the evidence that proved Eisenhauer's DNA was found under Lovell's fingernails and her blood was found in the trunk of his car.
After the young man entered his plea, Lovell's mother, Tammy Weeks, burst into tears and hugged prosecutor Pettitt. She also spoke to reporters and said, "I was blessed to be Nicole's mother, to be her friend for 13 years. We fought every fight together... She was a great and beautiful girl."
While, Pettit said, "We all suffer with the loss of this little girl. I do hope that we have been able to do the best that the justice system can do to provide some resolution and some justice."