Seventh-grader Nicole Madison Lovell was stabbed to death the same day she climbed out her bedroom window, by a Virginia Tech student who got help both before and after the crime, authorities said Tuesday.
David Eisenhauer, the engineering student accused of kidnapping and killing the 13-year-old girl, had told officers who arrested him Saturday that he believes "the truth will set me free," according to police documents.
Authorities revealed a few facts about their investigation Tuesday, even as they chased more than 400 tips, trying to reconstruct exactly what happened after Nicole was discovered missing Wednesday.
Hours after Eisenhauer's arrest on Saturday, Nicole's body was found hidden off a North Carolina road, two hours south of campus. A preliminary report found the cause of death was stabbing, and that she died the same day she went missing, Commonwealth's Attorney Mary Pettitt said.
Nicole used the sites Facebook and Kik, a chat software especially popular with young teens. A spokesman for Kik Interactive said the Ontario, Canada-based company had helped authorities after she disappeared.
"In this particular case, we were active in helping the FBI carry out their investigation," spokesman Rod McLeod wrote to the Associated Press on Monday.
In another development, Pettitt said another promising engineering major at Virginia Tech, Natalie Keepers, will face an additional and more serious charge. Keepers is now accused of being an accessory "before the fact" to first-degree murder, in addition to earlier accusations of helping to dispose of the body. The new charge carries 20-years to life in prison, Pettitt said.
The prosecutor said she would not take questions about the investigation, and that her responsibility is to "seek justice inside the courtroom."
Nicole's mother, Tammy Weeks, also spoke, describing the health problems her daughter battled and the joys in her short life.
"Her favorite color was blue. Nicole was a very lovable person. Nicole touched many people throughout her short life," Weeks read from a statement. Her sobs then grew louder, until she was ushered away.
Nicole suffering from bullying at school and online over her weight and a tracheotomy scar, her mother has said. She also needed daily medication after a liver transplant, lymphoma and a drug-resistant bacterial infection she survived as a 5-year-old.
Weeks shared with The Associated Press two photos of her daughter: one at about 10, sticking out her tongue and wearing a shirt with an actor from the "Twilight" movies; the other in a Mountain Dew hat and Dr. Pepper shirt last summer.
"She loved Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper," Weeks said sadly.
Eisenhauer, 18, and Keepers, 19, said little at their initial court appearances, and their lawyers have declined to comment.
Blacksburg police said they have evidence showing Eisenhauer knew the girl before she disappeared Wednesday.
"Eisenhauer used this relationship to his advantage to abduct the 13-year-old and then kill her. Keepers helped Eisenhauer dispose of Nicole's body," a police statement said.
The arrests of the two ambitious and focused students shocked their aquaintances in Maryland, where they graduated from nearby high schools last year. Neither had prior criminal records, police said.
Eisenhauer, named Boys Indoor Track Performer of the Year by The Baltimore Sun last March, chose Virginia Tech to pursue engineering while competing with the Hokies' top college runners, said Principal James LeMon at Wilde Lake High School.
"We had no reason to think he would be unsuccessful in his goals because he was very focused," LeMon said.
Keepers interned at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, led science experiments at her church's Bible school and hoped to build a future in aerospace or ocean engineering, her online resume said.
"It's just very, very surprising," said her principal, Marcia Leonard at Hammond High School.
Eisenhauer lived in Ambler Johnston Hall, the same co-ed residence hall where the first two people were killed in the 2007 campus massacre that left 32 dead.
"From what we've heard, he really stayed in his room a lot," said Abbey Workmeister, another freshman who lives in the same dormitory.
Logan Fry, a sophomore who lives on the same floor and also ran track in high school, said Nicole's death and the arrest of her dorm neighbor was frightening.
"Like, it definitely could have been me," she said.