A former Virginia Tech student pleaded no contest Friday in the 2016 killing of a 13-year-old girl.
David Eisenhauer, 20, entered his plea to all three charges against him in the stabbing death of Nicole Lovell: first-degree murder, abduction and concealing a body.
The plea came on the fourth day of testimony in his trial. Prosecutors told jurors Eisenhauer, then 18, killed Lovell, a 7th-grader from Blacksburg, because he was afraid she would expose his improper relationship with the underage girl.
David Eisenhauer, 20 (left), pleaded no contest to the murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell (right) in Virginia court on Friday
The plea came on the fourth day of testimony in his trial. Eisenhauer pictured on the right in court on Friday
Prosecutors told jurors Eisenhauer, then 18 and attending Virginia Tech, killed the 7th grader in 2016 because he was afraid she would expose their relationship. Eisenhauer pictured signing his no contest plea above
Eisenhauer now faces the possibility of life in prison, plus 15 years. He’s pictured above being escorted out of court on Friday
A plea of no contest means a defendant acknowledges there’s enough evidence to convict him, but doesn’t admit he committed the crime. The plea has the same effect as a guilty plea. Sentencing is scheduled for May 22 and May 23.
Lovell’s mother, Tammy Weeks, hugged prosecutor Mary Pettitt after Eisenhauer entered his pleas and was found guilty by Judge Robert Turk. The judge told Eisenhauer he faces up to life, plus 15 years.
‘I was blessed to be Nicole’s mother, to be her friend for 13 years,’ Weeks later told reporters as she choked back tears. ‘We fought every fight together… She was a great and beautiful girl.’
Lovell’s mother Tammy Weeks, center, cried in court as Eisenhauer pleaded no contest to her daughter’s murder
Weeks hugged prosecutor Patrick Jensen after the no contest plea on Friday
During opening statements, Eisenhauer’s lawyer attempted to shift the blame to his alleged accomplice, Natalie Keepers, who has been charged as an accessory and is scheduled to go on trial in September.
Keepers told police she and Eisenhauer talked about various ways to kill the girl and admitted she later helped dump her body in North Carolina after Eisenhauer stabbed her.
She insisted that she wasn’t present for the actual killing, but Eisenhauer’s lawyers suggested she was there and could have been the one who killed Lovell.
Pettitt told jurors that Nicole and Eisenhauer had been communicating through social media for months and had met at least once in person before Nicole climbed out her bedroom window for a ‘secret date’ with him just after midnight on January 27, 2016.
Lovell (left and right) went missing after sneaking out of her house the night of January 27, 2016. Her body was found in North Carolina three days later, with 14 stab wounds
Prosecutors showed jurors a piece of paper with Lovell’s address on it, found in Eisenhauer’s dorm room. They also presented evidence that Eisenhauer’s DNA was found under Lovell’s fingernails and her blood was found in the trunk of his car.
After Eisenhauer entered his pleas, Pettitt told reporters she is glad the case has been resolved, but said the justice system is ‘incapable of healing this loss for Nicole’s family, Nicole’s friends or the community.’
Meanwhile, Eisenhauer’s alleged accomplice, Natalie Keepers (pictured), is being charged as an accessory and is awaiting a trial expected to start in September
‘We all suffer with the loss of this little girl,’ Pettitt said. ‘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.’
Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson said Eisenhauer’s plea does not mean anyone won the case. ‘Truly, if we had won, we wouldn’t be in this room and Nicole would be at Blacksburg Middle School where she belongs,’ Wilson said.
During Eisenhauer’s trial, Weeks testified that she discovered her daughter was missing January 27, 2016, when she found a nightstand pushed up against her bedroom door and the window open. Prosecutors said Nicole climbed out her window to meet Eisenhauer. Her disappearance touched off a massive search.
Her mother testified that Nicole had a liver transplant when she was 10 months old and needed to take anti-rejection medication twice a day.
Nicole’s body was found three days later, just over the state line in North Carolina. A medical examiner testified that she had 14 stab wounds, including a lethal wound to her neck.