Natalie Keepers trial begins in Montgomery County

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) 21-year-old Natalie Keepers is charged with accessory before the fact in the murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell. She is accused of being an accomplice of David Eisenhauer.

In July 2018, Eisenhauer pleaded no contest to killing Lovell in January 2016. In August 2018, Keepers pleaded guilty to concealing Nicole Lovell's body.

In the prosecution's opening statement Tuesday, the prosecution told the jury that Keepers planned the murder with Eisenhauer and that she said she "liked being a part of the plan." They referenced Keepers' initial statements when she was interrogated by law enforcement before Lovell's body was found.

In her statements to police, the prosecution claimed Keepers said "she was a sociopath" and that Eisenhauer was a psychopath training her to become a psychopath as well.

The defense's opening statement claims those statements were taken out of context and not what Keepers meant when she spoke to police.

The defense said Keepers meant that she thought Eisenhauer thought she was a sociopath.

The defense told the jury that the Commonwealth needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what Keepers intended. The defense tasked the jury to answer the question, "Did Natalie Keepers share David Eisenhauer's malicious desire to kill Nicole Lovell?"

Lovell's mother, Tammy Weeks-Dowdy was the first witness called by the prosecution.

She was asked to recount what happened the day before Lovell was killed and the days following.

With tears in her eyes, she identified Lovell's autopsy photos.

The prosecution also brought several law enforcement officers to the witness stand. One testified that Lovell's body was found off Route 89 about 2 miles into North Carolina. A Blacksburg Police Officer testified of the interrogation process of Keepers.

He identified the consent form that Keepers signed giving permission to police to search her phone before she was under arrest. She said she'd communicated with Eisenhauer on several different platforms, including the Kik app. She said Eisenhauer's Kik username was "dr_tombstone."

The prosecution also called the medical examiner who performed Lovell's autopsy. Dr. Gayle Suzuki identified the wounds on Lovell's body. She said the lethal stab wound was to the left side of Lovell's neck.

About halfway through the medical examiner's testimony, Lovell's mother left the courtroom.

During Blacksburg Police Detective Ryan Hite's testimony, the prosecution played several clips of Keepers talking with police. In the clips, the prosecution points out that Keepers was the first to say Lovell was dead though she never said Nicole Lovell's name. She also identified where the body was located "near Eisenhauer's grandparents' house." She also described the location where Eisenhauer killed Lovell and how Eisenhauer committed the murder. She repeated multiple times in the video that she was not present when Eisenhauer killed Lovell.

Hite said he pursued his interrogation because Keepers seemed to know key details and he believed she might have been a part of murdering Lovell. He also said Keepers story changed throughout their conversation and the inconsistencies were concerning.

Throughout Keepers' interrogation, she told police that Eisenhauer wanted to get rid of Lovell because he found out Lovell was 13 years old , not 16 like she had told him.

Keepers said Eisenhauer talked through several plans with her. He wanted to make Lovell's death look like a suicide. She said "the outline of the plan was his, but he would bounce details of the plan" off of her.

During the cross examination, the defense shared several more clips of the interrogation, including one where Hite tells Keepers, "What he did he did and that didn't involve you" referring to Eisenhauer's murder of Lovell.

The defense asked Hite whether or not he told Keepers her Miranda rights. Hite responded yes, and explained that Keepers signed a document with the Miranda warning on it. However, the defense brought to light that Keepers did not sign the form until the second day of questioning.

In total, Keepers was questioned for over 27 hours over the course of two days. Hite explained that when Keepers was brought in for questioning the first day, she was not a suspect. She was questioned for 16 hours on January 30, 2016 and for about 12 hours on January 31st.

The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.