A Morgantown teenager has pleaded guilty to the July 2012 murder of Star City teen Skylar Neese.
Shelia Eddy, 18, entered the plea at a pre-trial hearing in Monongalia County Circuit Court Friday before Judge Russell Clawges. Eddy's murder trial was scheduled to begin next week.
Eddy's plea agreement includes a provision that Pennsylvania will not prosecute her for hiding Skylar's body in Greene County, Pennsylvania. The plea deal also includes a life sentence in prison with mercy. The mercy designation means that Eddy will be eligible for parole after she serves 15 years in prison. Eddy's plea agreement protects her from federal charges in the case. Judge Russell Clawges said the state of West Virginia will drop the conspiracy and kidnapping charges against Eddy in exchange for her plea agreement. Eddy will receive credit for time that she has already served, which began May 1, 2013. Eddy will be eligible for parole in 2028. She is being housed at a Charleston Juvenile Detention Center until a bed is available in a correctional facility.
Monongalia County Prosecutor Marcia Ashdown explained to the court that Eddy and Rachel Shoaf felt their friendship with Skylar was dissolving and feared that she would divulge their secrets. Ashdown said the conflict grew over time, at least in the minds of Shelia and Rachel.
"Instead of saying let's not call Skylar anymore, or let's not have her on a sleep over anymore they said let's kill her. And they did," Ashdown said to reporters following the hearing.
Skylar was last seen alive in July 2012. The night she disappeared Ashdown said she planned to go out with Eddy and Shoaf. They were to go joyriding, park, and smoke dope, Ashdown said. Instead the girls stabbed Skylar. Ashdown said they stood over her until she took her last breath. The girls then attempted to bury her.
"They changed into clean, unbloody clothes, and returned to their lives," Ashdown told the court. Ashdown requested that Eddy be sentenced to an adult prison for her "very adult crimes". Eddy will remain in a juvenile facility until a bed becomes available in a Division of Corrections facility, per Judge Clawges' ruling.
Shoaf and Eddy initially told the Neese family and investigators that they brought Skylar home later that night and dropped her off at the end of the street.
"Because those girls were so close to Skylar, police had little reason to disbelieve them," Ashdown said. "Even Dave and Mary would not have believed the best friends had killed their daughter, so that was an obstacle in the beginning."
Police followed up on tips that Skylar Neese may have traveled to North Carolina, but came up empty. The FBI and the West Virginia State Police later joined the investigation, but the girls' story would unravel.
Ashdown said Shoaf changed her story, and said that they left Neese in a remote part of the county. Ashdown said it was yet another lie, but showed a weakness in their story. Shoaf would lead investigators to Neese's remains in Wayne Township, Pennsylvania on Jan. 16, 2013. FBI testing confirmed that it was Skylar Neese.
On May 1, 2013 she pleaded guilty to second degree murder. In her plea, Shoaf described what happened that night and named Eddy as her co-conspirator.
Judge Russell Clawges said he felt that the state could have charged Shoaf with first-degree murder and wanted to make sure the plea agreement was okay with the Neese family. Ashdown said the Neese family felt the agreement was recognition of Shoaf's cooperation in the investigation.
"I think police who were involved in the front lines of that interview and that part of the investigation were stunned at Rachel Shoaf's confession," Ashdown said in a transcript of Shoaf's plea hearing.
Throughout the process witnesses came forward saying that they heard a conversation between Shoaf and her co-conspirator. The witnesses thought the two were joking, but later believed it was all too true, according to the transcript.
After Eddy's hearing Friday, Shoaf's family released this statement through their attorneys John Angotti and David Straface:
We continue to grieve over this tragedy. We acknowledge that Shelia Eddy has finally admitted her involvement and accepted responsibility for her actions in Skylar's death.
Her death is consistent with the prior admission and statements made by Rachel Shoaf and will help to bring some closure in this matter for the Neese family without the necessity of their having to endure the pain and heartache of a trial.
We continue to pray that we will all find peace in our hearts and the strength to move forward.
Shoaf faces up to 40 years in prison. Her sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Feb. 26.
Ashdown said physical evidence including stab wounds on Neese's remains and blood on Shoaf's car, along with Shoaf's testimony, was enough to charge Eddy, who was indicted by a Monongalia County grand jury in September 2013 on one count of kidnapping, one count of first degree murder and two counts of conspiracy. She later pleaded not guilty to the charges at her arraignment on Sept. 17, 2013.
Eighteen months after Skylar's disappearance her killers are behind bars. Dave Neese spoke during sentencing saying, "Since that day my life and my wife's life have been drastically altered. We're no longer a family. The person who sits before you, Skylar's so called friend, took her away from us without remorse of feelings. You can look into the eyes of those who are responsible but you can never hear what they heard as they took her life."
He also told reporters after the hearing that there is no closure, "There is no closure in my mind, but who knows how my mind is working right now... I don't think it will ever be closed. My little girl is something you can't close."
Skylar Neese's parents, Dave and Mary Neese, had reported their daughter missing to the Star City Police Department less than 24 hours after she left with her friend. Two weeks after Skylar Neese's disappearance, Dave Neese spoke to WBOY about the last time he and his wife saw their daughter. Skylar Neese came home to her family's Crawford Avenue apartment after a working a typical shift at the Wendy's in the Glenmark Center, said Dave Neese.
"She walked into the living room, sat on the arm of the chair and gave her mom a hug, a kiss and told her she loved her," David Neese recalled. "Came over gave me a hug, gave me a kiss and told me she was tired and she was going to bed. That's the last we've seen of her."
Surveillance video from the James Place apartments showed the 16-year-old willingly leaving the complex. "She came out this window, walked approximately 75 feet down to the dumpster, got into an unknown sedan, unknown color sedan and that's the last she's been seen or heard from," David Neese said.
Dave Neese said the many rumors of her disappearance were tough on him and his wife, but they never gave up. "I mean there's always that glimmer of hope," Dave said in March 2013. "There's always hope that things are going to turn up better than they think it's going to turn out but when they came and told us, that they, it was a lot of tears and heartache."
A memorial in memory of Skylar was placed in Greene County, Pennsylvania, in June 2013, where her body was found.