Nicole Lovell
Nicole Lovell

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Seventh-grader Nicole Madison Lovell was stabbed to death the same day she climbed out of her bedroom window, by a Virginia Tech student who got help from a fellow freshman both before and after the crime, authorities said Tuesday. David Eisenhauer, the engineering major accused of kidnapping and killing the 13-year-old girl, said “I believe the truth will set me free” after he was arrested on Saturday, police said. Nicole’s mother discovered her missing last Wednesday morning, setting off an intense hunt. Police quickly zeroed in on Eisenhauer, and then found Nicole’s body on Saturday, hidden off a North Carolina road, two hours south of campus.

Stacey Snider, a neighbor of the family whose 8-year-old twins played with Nicole, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that before she vanished, Nicole showed her girls Eisenhauer’s picture and a thread of texts they had shared through Kik, a messaging app popular with young teens. Snider said Nicole told her girls that she would be sneaking out that night to meet him. Nicole said she had been seeing Eisenhauer repeatedly, and described him as her “boyfriend,” Snider said. Snider said she learned all this from her girls only after Nicole vanished. “I would have told her mother. But we didn’t know nothing about it until she came up missing, unfortunately,” she said.

Nicole was stabbed to death on Wednesday, Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt said.  Pettitt said a classmate of Eisenhauer’s, Natalie Keepers, will face an additional and more serious charge. Keepers is now accused of being an accessory “before the fact” to first-degree murder, in addition to earlier accusations of helping to dispose of the body. The new charge carries 20 years to life in prison, Pettitt said.  The prosecutor said she would not take questions about the investigation, and that her responsibility is to “seek justice inside the courtroom.”

Nicole’s mother, Tammy Weeks, also spoke, describing the health problems her daughter battled and the joys in her short life. “Her favorite color was blue. Nicole was a very lovable person. Nicole touched many people throughout her short life,” Weeks read from a statement. Her sobs then grew louder, until she was ushered away. Nicole suffering from bullying at school and online over her weight and a tracheotomy scar, her mother has said. She also needed daily medication after a liver transplant, lymphoma and a drug-resistant bacterial infection she survived as a 5-year-old.

Blacksburg police said they have evidence showing Eisenhauer knew the girl before she disappeared Wednesday. “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,” a police statement said. Eisenhauer, 18, and Keepers, 19, said little in court; their lawyers have declined to comment. Keepers will likely be arraigned on the new charge during a 12:30 p.m. Wednesday bond hearing, according to the Montgomery County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court clerk’s office. The arrests of the two ambitious and focused students shocked their aquaintances in Maryland, where they graduated from nearby high schools last year. Neither had prior criminal records, police said.