(Reuters) - A former Virginia Tech student was convicted of kidnapping and murdering a 13-year-old girl after telling the judge overseeing his trial that he wanted to enter a plea of no contest on Friday, a local prosecutor said.
David Eisenhauer, 19, was convicted of abducting, killing and concealing the body of middle-school student Nicole Lovell in January 2016, according to Mary Pettitt, the chief prosecutor in Montgomery County, Virginia. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison.
Lovell’s body was found stabbed by a rural North Carolina roadside, about 90 miles south of her hometown of Blacksburg. She had disappeared four days earlier from Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech is located, and the crime left the university and local community reeling.
Eisenhauer may have had an inappropriate relationship with Lovell, the Washington Post has reported. Lovell told a friend she planned to run away with Eisenhauer and start a family, the Post reported.
Under Virginia law, a defendant can plead no contest without admitting to the crime if the defendant agrees that the prosecutor has enough evidence that the court return a guilty verdict. It is treated the same as a guilty plea for conviction and sentencing.
A second former Virginia Polytechnic Institute student, Natalie Keepers, who is charged with being Eisenhauer’s accomplice and helping to conceal Lovell’s body faces trial later this year after pleading not guilty.
Keepers, 20, became friends with Eisenhauer, a fellow engineering student, before Lovell’s abduction, according to police in Blacksburg. Keepers also faces life in prison if convicted.
In brief, emotional remarks made after the hearing on Friday, Lovell’s mother, Tammy Weeks, said she was blessed to raise a “bright and beautiful girl.”
“We fought every fight together but this last one,” Weeks said, clutching a tissue.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Adler