Skylar Neese was a 16-year-old honors student at University High in Morgantown, West Virginia, when she was murdered in July 2012 by two of her friends.
Skylar was last seen on July 6, 2012, on a surveillance video after sneaking out of her bedroom window of her family's home and getting into an unidentified car.
Authorities initially suspected that Skylar was a runaway, but her parents always believed she was kidnapped because of the personal items left in her room, including her contact lenses.
It was not until January 3, 2013, that authorities got a break in the case. Rachel Shoaf, 16 at the time, admitted that she and another girl killed Skylar.
Shoaf accepted a plea deal and agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a recommendation of a 20-year sentence from state prosecutors.
Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney Marcia Ashdown said, "Shoaf said she and the other juvenile picked up Skylar in a vehicle belonging to the other juvenile just after midnight July 6. Skylar had planned to meet them outside."
Ashdown told investigators that the three friends drove to Pennsylvania. They got out of the car along the way on a rural road there and were socializing. Then at a planned and agreed upon moment, Shoaf and the other juvenile attacked and stabbed Skylar to death. The two teens originally planned to bury Skylar, but could not, so they covered her body with branches and left her on the road.
On January 16, 2013, the decomposed body of Skylar Neese was found at the location Shoaf described in Wayne Township, Pennsylvania, around 20 miles from her home.
Identity of Second SuspectThe identity of the other girl allegedly involved in the murder plot stayed hidden until prosecutors had her case moved from juvenile to adult court. She has been identified as Shelia Eddy, 16, who was at one time Neese's best friend and who also helped hand out fliers for the family when Skylar went missing.
During the investigation, police identified the sedan Skylar got into the night she disappeard as belonging to Eddy and she was questioned. She admitted picking up Neese, but stated that she had dropped her off an hour later.
Sheila Eddy has pleaded not guilty to the charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy. Her trial is set for February 11, 2014.
Shoaf is still awaiting sentencing, which under the law could be a 10 to 40 year sentence.
Shoaf alleges that she and Eddy plotted to kill Neese because they no longer wanted to be her friend. She said that they lured Neese to a wooden area in Pennsylvania, counted to three and then stabbed her to death.
When Skylar's parents reported Skylar as missing to the police an Amber Alert was not issued because the authorities thought she was a runaway. At that time, under the West Virginia law, in order to issue an Amber Alert the following criteria had to met:
- A child is believed to be abducted.
- The child is under 18.
- The child may be in danger of death or serious injury
- There is sufficient information to indicate the Amber Alert would be helpful.
Skylar's family, with the help of a West Virginia state legislator, pushed to have the criteria changed and in May 2013, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed a new amendment called "Skylar's Law" that includes that when a child is missing (not just a suspected abduction) an Amber Alert can be issued.