The 13-year-old Blacksburg, Va., girl who was abducted and killed last month told friends that the Virginia Tech student accused in her slaying was her boyfriend and talked of running away and starting a family with him, a friend said.
Nicole Lovell described David Eisenhauer, 18, as “funny and really nice” in the weeks leading up to her Jan. 27 disappearance. And Eisenhauer, who is charged with first-degree murder in Nicole’s death, appeared to be a conscientious engineering student during the period in which prosecutors said he and another Virginia Tech freshman plotted the slaying.
Nicole’s friends and the first interview with Eisenhauer’s Virginia Tech roommate providednew details about how the two teenagers’ paths crossed, their relationship, and the period leading up to her death and his arrest.
Natasha Bryant, 13, said Nicole — a friend and classmate — told her and other friends that she and Eisenhauer were dating. She said the two made contact on Facebook and corresponded online. Natasha said she was unaware of Eisenhauer’s age at the time, but she and other friends worried about Nicole’s online activities.
“She told people she was talking to him,” said Natasha, whose father agreed to let her be interviewed. “We didn’t think it was that big of a deal because she didn’t make that much of it. She always talked of running away with him. She used to talk to a lot of older guys. A lot of people told her not to. I told her it’s not safe. I told her she was going to be hurt or kidnapped or something.”
Nicole’s family also has said there were concerns about her use of social media. David Lovell, Nicole’s father, recorded an interview with the “Dr. Phil” show that will air Wednesday. In the segment, Lovell, who lived apart from Nicole and her mother, said the family had grounded Nicole because she had been chatting “inappropriately” with men online, according to a news release issued by the show.
Despite a snowstorm that blew in Monday evening, more than a hundred people gathered near the edge of the Virginia Tech campus for a vigil in Nicole’s memory. Many wore ribbons of blue, the middle-schooler’s favorite color. Nicole’s mother, Tammy Weeks, spoke to the crowd about her daughter, whom she called Coley.
“As I stand here tonight, my family and I are broken,” Weeks said. “God, I miss you Coley. Tonight is for Coley. Tonight is for our community.”
When Weeks became too distraught to continue, Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson finished reading her statement, in which Weeks said she had no animosity toward Virginia Tech.
Eisenhauer’s roommate at Virginia Tech told The Washington Post that the engineering student and athlete seemed in many ways an average freshman. He was a diligent student who spent hours completing homework assignments while also dedicating time outside the classroom to the university’s cross-country team.
“He seemed very excited to be at Tech,” said the roommate, who agreed to an interview with The Post on the condition of anonymity, to speak candidly. “He was very excited about running cross-country for the school.”
The roommate said Eisenhauer never mentioned having a girlfriend, and he said he had never once mentioned Nicole. The roommate said that although they were not friends socially, he considered Eisenhauer to be a mostly typical dorm room companion.
“Nothing extraordinary about him, nothing horrible about him,” he said.
But he also described Eisenhauer as a loner and a difficult person to understand. He said Eisenhauer did not appear to have many friends on campus and kept mostly to himself, dividing his time between classes, studying and running practice twice a day.
He said Eisenhauer occasionally stayed up until 2 a.m. finishing homework, only to have to wake at 7 a.m. for cross-country commitments.
The roommate said nothing about Eisenhauer’s behavior stood out to him during the week that the middle-school girl went missing.
“Nothing David said during the week was cause for suspect,” the roommate said. “However, much of what he said did seem strange after I found out he was arrested.”
Asked to explain further, the roommate said that Eisenhauer “was just out late at night and that wasn’t usual for him.”
The roommate said he returned to their dorm on Saturday, Jan. 30, to find Virginia State Police troopers and FBI officials investigating the slaying.
“It shocked me because I never expected it at all,” he said.
Eisenhauer’s attorney declined to comment Monday.
Nicole’s friends said she endured bullying at school but remained a bubbly girl who loved pouring her feelings out in a notebook, painting and her enthusiasm for pandas.
“We would always goof around in the hallway at school,” Natasha said of their time at Blacksburg Middle School. “She stood out in a crowd.”
Prosecutors have not revealed a motive for Nicole’s killing, but two law enforcement officials have told The Post that Eisenhauer had sexual contact with the girl.
At a bond hearing last week, Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt described an elaborate plot by Eisenhauer and his friend Natalie Keepers, 19, who has been charged as an accessory before and after Nicole’s killing and with helping dispose of the girl’s body. The plot they hatched took shape over the course of the month of January, authorities said.
Pettitt told a judge that Eisenhauer and Keepers bounced ideas back and forth about how to kill Nicole, bought a shovel and picked a remote spot to slit her throat. Keepers was also an engineering student at Virginia Tech. Both are from the Maryland suburbs of Washington.
Pettitt said Eisenhauer used his relationship with Nicole to lure her out of her home and abduct her. Nicole’s body was found several days later along the Virginia-North Carolina border. A preliminary investigation found that she died of stab wounds.
Gaige Kern, a Virginia Tech distance runner who knows Eisenhauer, took to Facebook to write an open letter to Eisenhauer in the wake of his arrest, questioning how well he knew his friend. Kern published the statement online and subsequently declined to be interviewed by The Post.
“My ability to trust has diminished, and I’m now skeptical of everyone around me,” Kern wrote. “Was this newly surfaced personality always there, lurking in the shadows, hiding amidst lies? And if it was, how did you hide it so well?”
Natasha, the middle-schooler, said she did not know when Nicole began corresponding with Eisenhauer.
“She was looking for someone who would give her attention and give her some compassion,” Natasha said, noting that Nicole had problems with some peers at Blacksburg Middle School. “A lot of people talked behind her back. They talked about the scar on her throat.”
The scar on Nicole’s neck was the result of a tracheotomy; she had survived lymphoma and a liver transplant, among other ailments early in life.
Natasha said the bullying left Nicole depressed. She talked of cutting herself and running away. Another friend said Nicole had contacted reached out to an online counseling group for help.
“It was having a big impact on her life,” the friend said.
Still, Natasha said Nicole’s ability to overcome her health problems was impressive, and she developed a close circle of friends.
Friends and strangers turned out for the vigil. Bobby Lowery, a 19-year-old Virginia Tech student, said he and others were deeply disturbed by the allegations against their classmates. He said he came “to show that the relationship between Blacksburg and Tech is still strong.”
Natasha said Nicole’s memory would remain with her long after Monday night.
“She is on my mind 24/7,” she said.
Balingit reported from Blacksburg, Va.