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Crime

Second Maryland teen charged in death of Blacksburg, Va., girl

Second Virginia Tech student from Md. charged in death of 13-year-old girl.

A second Virginia Tech student from Maryland has been charged in the alleged abduction and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Blacksburg, Va., officials said Sunday.

Natalie M. Keepers, 19, of Laurel, is charged with improper disposal of a dead body and accessory after the fact in the death of Nicole Madison Lovell, the Blacksburg Police Department said.

Lovell went missing from her home in Blacksburg on Wednesday. Her body was found Saturday afternoon on a road in Surry County, N.C., just over the Virginia state line.

Keepers, a graduate of Hammond High School in Columbia, was being held without bond at the Montgomery County Jail in Virginia, police said.

Police charged David E. Eisenhauer, 18, of Columbia, with first-degree murder and abduction on Saturday.

Eisenhauer, a graduate of Wilde Lake High School who ran for the Virginia Tech cross country team, was also being held without bond at the Montgomery County Jail.

Police say Eisenhauer knew Lovell before she was abducted, but they didn't say how they became acquainted. Police say Keepers helped Eisenhauer dispose of the girl's body.

Virginia State Police divers searched a pond on the Virginia Tech campus on Sunday. The search was related to the girl's death, police said, but they did not say what divers were seeking.

Eisenhauer, a freshman engineering major, did not tell investigators where Lovell's body was, Blacksburg police chief Anthony Wilson said. He said investigators received tips.

Lovell's mother, Tammy Weeks, told The Washington Post that police came to her house about 2 p.m. Saturday to tell her that her daughter's body had been found.

"I'm shocked," said Weeks, 43, a cashier at a local department store. "I'm hurt. It's unbelievable."

Weeks said her daughter had survived a liver transplant, MRSA and lymphoma when she was 5.

"God got her through all that, and she fought through all that, and he took her life," she said. "That evil bastard took her life."

It was on social media where Nicole may have met Eisenhauer recently, Weeks said police told her. "That's all I know," she said. "It was some off-the-wall site I never heard of."

Lovell's family said she disappeared after pushing a dresser in front of her bedroom door and climbing out a window. Police said she did not have medication that she required daily for her liver transplant.

Virginia Tech said hundreds of its students had joined in the search for the girl. Researchers at the university used drones.

University officials said Eisenhauer had been suspended. His profile on the school's sports site was removed after the charges were announced.

"The entire Virginia Tech community extends its support to Nicole's family and friends," the university said in a statement.

Eisenhauer was a standout cross country and track athlete at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia. He was the Howard County indoor track athlete of the year last year, and was a two-time Class 3A state runner-up in cross country.

"The dude was mentally tough. There was no doubt about it," said Chris Heydrick, who ran against Eisenhauer last year.

Heydrick, who won five individual state championships at River Hill High School, competed with Eisenhauer in the mile and during the cross country season.

"He was definitely my biggest rival," Heydrick said.

He said Eisenhauer had a curious habit of waiting at the finish line to shake hands with all the other runners. Heydrick said it seemed like an exaggerated gesture of sportsmanship.

"He was a little bit on the cocky side," Heydrick said.

Eisenhauer moved to Columbia from Yakima, Wash., to Maryland before his junior year of high school.

"I came from a high school with about 83 kids at the whole school, 26 in my grade," he said in an April 2015 interview.

He quickly established himself as a competitive runner.

"I was skeptical when I asked him his background of running," Wilde Lake coach Whitty Bass said last year. "He said his cross country team in Yakima had consisted of himself, a neighbor and a girl. I thought, 'Well, that might not make it in Howard County.' But he quickly dispelled any reservations I had."

Keepers, a sophomore general engineering student at Virginia Tech, graduated from Hammond High School, Howard County schools spokesman John White confirmed. He declined to comment further.

Eisenhauer's parents could not be reached for comment Sunday. No one answered the phone at Keepers' home in Laurel on Sunday afternoon.

Joe Keating, who said he was a co-captain alongside Eisenhauer on the Wilde Lake High School track team, described him as a normal kid who seemed to enjoy being at school and never started any problems.

Keating said he was "appalled" by the thought that Eisenhauer could be involved in Lovell's death.

"All of my friends that knew him, that graduated with him, as well as everyone on the team, we're just in total shock about this entire thing. We would never have seen this coming," Keating said.

Keepers and Eisenhauer are to be arraigned Monday in the Montgomery County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, a spokesman for the Blacksburg Police said.

Baltimore Sun reporters Colin Campbell, Ian Duncan and Tim Prudente, The Baltimore Sun Media Group and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

pwood@baltsun.com

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