A jury has recommended 40 years in prison for a former Virginia Tech student found guilty for her role in the death of a 13-year-old girl.
The sentence for Natalie Keepers, 21, was announced Friday after she was convicted as an accessory in the 2016 fatal stabbing of Nicole Lovell.
A judge will consider the recommendation with a pre-sentencing report when determining her punishment on November 27.
Keepers and friend David Eisenhauer were both freshmen engineering students at the time of the killing. Lovell was a Blacksburg middle school student.
Natalie Keepers, 21, is pictured in tears as the jury recommends she gets a 40-year prison sentence
She was found guilty Thursday for her role in the death of the 13-year-old girl two years ago
Keepers was an accessory in the first-degree murder death of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell (pictured)
Eisenhauer is serving 50 years after pleading no contest to first-degree murder.
David Eisenhauer admitted to stabbing the teenager 14 times including a lethal wound to her neck and is serving a 50-year sentence
Prosecutors said Eisenhauer met Lovell online and killed her because he feared she would expose their relationship.
Natalie Keepers was closely involved in helping David Eisenhauer, 21, plan the death of Lovell; going with him to buy a shovel and helping him pick out the location for the murder.
Text messages also showed that the pair discussed the methods to kill Lovell – Eisenhauer’s secret 13-year-old online girlfriend.
Lawyers for Keepers, who pleaded not guilty to being an accessory before the fact, argued that she never really believed he planned to kill Lovell, and that she was ‘just playing along with his fantasy.’
Attorney Kris Olin said that Keepers had never even met the victim but ‘loved being part of the plan, not because it was a plan to murder but because it was a plan to be close to David.’
Olin told the jury that ‘playing along’ is not the same as ‘shared intent.’
Tammy Weeks, left, mother of murder victim Nicole Lovell, reacts to testimony during the sentencing phase of the Natalie Keepers trial Friday
Tim and Sara Keepers listen as their daughter Natalie Keepers testifies during the sentencing phase of her trial in Christiansburg, Virginia Friday
But on Thursday, a jury found Keepers, who spent most of the hearing with her head down, wiping tears from her eyes, guilty.
Prosecutors say Eisenhauer met Lovell online and communicated with her for months before meeting her at least once in person.
They met again in January 2016, when the college freshman lured Lovell out of her family’s apartment with the promise of a ‘secret date’.
That’s when he took her to wooded area and subsequently killed her because he feared she would expose their relationship.
Prosecutors have said that Keepers told police Eisenhauer told her he feared Lovell could be pregnant.
Lovell’s body was found just over the state line in North Carolina.
A medical examiner had testified that she had 14 stab wounds, including a lethal wound to her neck.
Keepers previously admitted helping to hide the body of Lovell after the murder on January 27, 2016.
Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettit talks about the outcome of the Natalie Keepers trial during a press conference in Christiansburg Friday