Commonwealth's Attorney: Nicole Lovell's preliminary cause of death is stabbing

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MONTGOMERY CO., Va. - A preliminary report shows that Nicole Lovell died from stab wounds, according to Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Mary Pettitt.

At a news conference Tuesday, Pettitt also announced that Natalie Keepers is now charged with accessory before the fact of first-degree murder in the Lovell case.

Keepers, a Virginia Tech student, was originally charged with improper disposal of a body and accessory after the fact in commission of a felony. She will have an arraignment hearing at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday on the new charge.

David Eisenhauer, 18, is charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder. He's also a Virginia Tech student.

Pettitt said Tuesday during a news conference that the investigation shows that Nicole Lovell died on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Lovell, 13, was found dead Saturday, January 30.

According to the Code of Virginia, accessory before the fact is prosecuted the same as first-degree murder. If convicted, Keepers could face the same potential punishment as first-degree murder.

"Local, state, and federal investigators assigned to the case continue to make progress with reconstructing the timeline of those two individuals' movements and activities leading up to Nicole's abduction and murder," Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson said.

MOTHER SPEAKS

Nicole Lovell's mother, Tammy Weeks, spoke at Tuesday's news conference while clutching a panda. Pandas were “Coley’s” favorite animal, her mother said.

Weeks said her daughter loved music and dreamed of being on "American Idol." Before Weeks could finish reading a prepared statement, she became choked up and had to step away from the podium.

Weeks detailed her daughter’s health history. She said soon after Nicole was born on May 3, 2002, the family started to notice changes to her abdomen. After several tests, she was diagnosed with a rare tumor in her liver.

At 10-months-old, she received a liver transplant. Weeks said her daughter lived a normal life until the age of 4 when she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“At this point, we almost lost her for the second time,” Weeks said.

After that, Nicole developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and slipped into a coma for six months, eventually developing MRSA.

“We were advised at that time she would only have 1% chance of survival. Coley once again beat the odds, though,” Weeks said.

After eight months, she was released from the hospital “and started to thrive.”

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

After Weeks became emotional, Lovell’s youth pastor, Josh Blankenship, finished Weeks’ statement by reading:

"Our hearts still ache in sadness and secret tears still flow. What it meant to lose you, no one will ever know."

EISENHAUER CONNECTION TO AREA

WDBJ7's Justin Ward confirmed Tuesday that Eisenhauer has family living in the Galax and Grayson County area. Some of that family owns land only a few miles from where law enforcement found Lovell's body. She was found near Low Gap in Surry County, North Carolina, which is across the state line from Grayson County.

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS

McCoy Funeral Home in Blacksburg is handling the funeral arrangements. Visitation is Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. at McCoy Funeral Home. The funeral is at 3 p.m. Thursday at McCoy Funeral Home.

Funeral home staff say Nicole Lovell's funeral costs have already been covered.

Auburn Baptist Church will be buying food for the family to have after the service. Anyone wishing to donate money toward purchasing this food can bring it by the church from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. this week, mail it to P. O. Box 917 Riner, VA 24149 or give it to Martha at the regular services this week.