After deliberating for two and a half hours Friday, the jury recommended a prison sentence for 21-year-old university student Natalie Keepers. The jury walked into the courtroom after recommending the judge sentence Keepers to 40 years in prison with no fine. Her official sentencing won't be until November 27. The baby-faced student was found guilty for killing 13-year-old girl Nicole Lovell who was bullied at school over a scar on her throat from an emergency tracheotomy.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Natalie Keepers was found GUILTY today of being an accessory before the fact of the murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell.<br><br>The jury deliberated for about an hour and a half before returning with this verdict. <a href="https://t.co/1RSXsuuy9n">pic.twitter.com/1RSXsuuy9n</a></p>— Cynthia Beasley (@CynthiaABC13) <a href="https://twitter.com/CynthiaABC13/status/1042927950927212545?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 21, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Nicole posted on Facebook about having a much older boyfriend and how he was quite a catch. The name of Lovell's mystery boyfriend is David Eisenhauer, a Virginia tech track star student who was even named athlete of the week. Lovell's Facebook profile was slowly updated to show, "In a relationship" and "First Kiss." Eventually, Lovell told all her friends at school that her boyfriend was a tech-student thinking it would make her popular.
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One night in January 2016, Lovell slipped out of her bedroom window at midnight to meet Eisenhauer in a wooded area. The date would be her last because Eisenhauer stabbed her 15 times. He then called his other girlfriend Natalie Keepers to help get rid of the body. The pair dumped Lovell's body on a rural road in North Carolina. For this crime, Keepers was found guilty by a jury of being an accessory before the fact to first-degree murder.
Prosecutors told the jury that Keepers helped her boyfriend Eisenhauer buy a shovel and pick out a location to murder her at. Texts exchanged between the pair revealed they even talked about how they were going to do it. Lawyers for the 21-year-old University student told the jury that Keepers didn't know he was going to go through with it. A defense attorney for Keepers named Kris Olin said that she 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."
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The victim's mother showed pictures of Lovell's birth and told the jury how much her daughter's life meant to her before Keeper's sentencing. Lovell was stabbed 15 times, one a fatal wound to her neck. Keepers confessed to investigators that she helped hide Nicole's body. The victim's mother went on to tell the court, "She loved dancing. She loved her little skirts. She loved pandas. We were going to do it Monday, me and my son…it's just hard." Her mother told the jury that she has to see a grief counselor since her daughter's death and she goes to work when she can even though it's difficult.
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She said she is often kept awake by dreams and vivid nightmares. "She was everything to me," Lovell's mother said. The judge asked her, "Is there anything else you would like the jury to know?" and she responded, "A couple of years from now you will forget all about this, but this will forever haunt my family." A childhood pastor for Keeper has been visiting her at jail named Pastor Peter DeMick. He spoke on behalf of Keepers telling the jury, "Over the past two-and-a-half years since she was arrested, I have made the trip down to Western Virginia Regional jail at least monthly to visit with her."
"She has expressed extreme remorse over what has taken place….she has prayed for God's forgiveness…even though she knows she doesn't deserve it," DeMick said. "She prays for Nicole's family, especially for her mom, Tammy Weeks." Keeper's little sister even spoke on her behalf saying, "Words can not express the sorrow we have for your family," Sara Keepers said. "We pray for you every night. Especially for peace and comfort. Even her father took the stand saying, "Heartbroken. Rock bottom. Devastating. These are just words, but they have had new meaning over the past few years for my wife and I. Please, my entire family asks you to have mercy on Natalie."
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Natalie Keepers even spoke herself at one point saying, "I'm so sorry. Words can't express how sorry I am. I never intended for this to happen." Keepers then looked back at Nicole Lovell's mother who was sitting behind her. "I pray for your family every night," Keepers continued. "I am so sorry. I wish I could have stopped it. I never intended for this to happen. I'm so sorry." Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Patrick Jensen said to Keepers, "You were described as a good big sister. When all of this was going on in January of 2016, did you ever put Nicole in the place of your younger siblings?"
The tearful testimony would not be enough to change the jury's verdict, and Keepers was sentenced to 40 years in prison. The killer himself has a life of isolation to look forward to since those sentenced for crimes against children are kept in segregation within prisons, or they will be attacked by other inmates. Female prisoners are not nearly as brutal, but the gruesome nature of Keepers' crime will likely see her get similar treatment as Eisenhauer behind bars.
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