- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A 13-year-old girl who disappeared last week from her home in Blacksburg, Virginia, and was later found dead in North Carolina, is believed to have been stabbed to death last Wednesday, according to authorities investigating her killing.

The preliminary cause of death for Nicole Lovell was released Tuesday by prosecutor Mary Pettitt, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Montgomery County, Virginia.

Authorities also announced that one of the two suspects arrested in connection with the girl’s death will face more serious charges.

Originally, Natalie M. Keepers, 19, of Laurel, Maryland, was charged only with one felony count of improper disposal of a dead body. She will be charged Wednesday as an accessory before the fact to first-degree murder, meaning prosecutors believe she may have played some role in planning or encouraging the crime.

The new charge carries 20 years to life in prison, Ms. Pettitt said.

David Eisenhauer, 18, is charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder in the case. He is a former high school track star from Columbia, Maryland.

Both suspects are freshmen engineering students at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, about a two-hour drive from where Nicole’s body was found in Surry County, North Carolina. Neither suspect had prior criminal records, police said.

Blacksburg Police Department officials offered no further details about the circumstances surrounding Nicole’s killing, or how either of the two suspects knew her.

Earlier, police said that Mr. Eisenhauer was in some way “acquainted” with Nicole and that he “used this relationship to his advantage to abduct the 13-year-old and then kill her.”

Nicole’s mother, Tammy Weeks, also spoke briefly at the press conference in Blacksburg.

She described how her daughter had survived multiple surgeries and health problems early in life, including a liver transplant. She said Nicole had a passion for pandas, music, dancing, and had dreamed of being on a contestant on “American Idol.”

Nicole was a very lovable person,” Ms. Weeks said, beginning to cry. “Nicole touched many people throughout her short life.”

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 Mr. Eisenhauer’s picture and a thread of texts they had shared through Kik, a messaging app popular with young teens.

Ms. Snider said Nicole told her girls that she would be sneaking out that night to meet him. Nicole said she had been seeing Mr. Eisenhauer repeatedly, and described him as her “boyfriend,” Ms. Snider said.

Ms. 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 told the AP.

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