Murder of Skylar Neese
Skylar Annette Neese|
February 10, 1996
Morgantown, West Virginia, United States
July 6, 2012 (aged 16)|
Wayne Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, United States
|Cause of death||Homicide by stabbing|
|Parent(s)||Dave Neese and Mary Neese|
Skylar Annette Neese (February 10, 1996 – July 6, 2012) was an American girl who disappeared from her home in Star City, West Virginia around midnight on July 6, 2012. Neese's remains were found on January 16, 2013, in Wayne Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania.
Neese was murdered by two of her high school friends, Rachel Shoaf and Shelia Eddy. In December 2012, Shoaf told authorities that she and Eddy planned and carried out Neese's murder. Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on May 1, 2013. Neese's disappearance led to new West Virginia legislation that made changes to the AMBER Alert missing child alert system.
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Skylar Annette Neese was the only child of Mary and Dave Neese. At that time Mary Neese worked as an administrative assistant in a cardiac lab and Dave Neese was a product assembler at Walmart. Skylar was an honors student at University High School who wanted to become a criminal lawyer. She worked at Wendy's with two close friends.
Shelia Rae Eddy (born September 28, 1995) is the only child of Tara Clendenen and Greg Eddy. Shelia was born in Blacksville, West Virginia. Her parents divorced in 2000 when her father got into a car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury and permanent disability. Tara struggled as a single mother, working as an accountant for a car dealership. In October 2010, Tara and Shelia moved with Tara's new husband, Jim Clendenen, to Morgantown, West Virginia.
Rachel Shoaf (born June 10, 1996) grew up in Morgantown. She is the only daughter of Rusty and Patricia Shoaf.
Both perpetrators attended University High School along with their victim.
On July 5, 2012, Neese returned to her family's Star City, West Virginia apartment after working a shift at Wendy's. Her apartment complex's surveillance video showed that Neese left the apartment via her bedroom window at 12:30 A.M. on July 6 and got into a sedan. Neese's father said that she did not take her cell phone charger, her window was left open, and that she planned on coming home.
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On the night of the murder, Shelia Eddy and Rachel Shoaf had invited Neese to sneak out with them. Neese, who had recently fallen out with the two, was initially hesitant. After a series of phone calls and texts from the girls, Neese changed her mind.
At approximately 12:30 a.m., Neese climbed out of her bedroom window, crossed the street and got into the back seat of a four-door sedan. Law enforcement officers later determined that the sedan had been in the possession of Shelia Eddy that evening. The three girls then headed northwest from Star City toward Blacksville via U.S. Route 19. The perpetrators had planned to travel along W.V. Route 7, but turned around after spotting a state police car parked in front of a gambling lounge.
They eventually arrived at their destination just across the Pennsylvania state border, a spot where all three of the girls would occasionally smoke marijuana. Shoaf and Eddy had been planning Neese's murder for months. They left Eddy's house prepared to carry out the assault on Neese, bringing with them kitchen knives, paper towels, bleach, cleaning cloths, clean clothes, and a shovel. They concealed the knives on their persons, and hid the remaining items in the trunk of Eddy's vehicle.
Once the girls were out of the vehicle, the perpetrators told Neese they had forgotten to bring a lighter. Neese volunteered to go back to the vehicle to fetch her own lighter. Once Neese had turned her back, Shoaf and Eddy began counting to three—their agreed-upon signal. Upon giving the signal, Shoaf and Eddy began to stab Neese. The victim attempted to run, but was only able to run a few feet before Shoaf tackled her to the ground and continued the assault. During the attack, Neese managed to wrestle Shoaf's knife from her and, in an apparent attempt to defend herself, cut Shoaf's knee. Eddy continued to stab Neese until there was complete silence and, according to Shoaf, "Neese's neck stopped making gurgling sounds." Neese's post-mortem revealed more than 50 stab wounds.
Afterwards Shoaf and Eddy attempted to bury the body, first dragging Neese to the side of the road which would not work because the road ran along a creek and the soil there was too hard and rocky to dig a hole, which had been their original plan. They instead covered Skylar's body with rocks, fallen branches, and dirt. Shoaf and Eddy then returned to the car to clean themselves and the murder scene. Upon completing the murder and cleaning up, Shoaf and Eddy left the scene, disposed of their blood-soaked clothing and returned to their homes.
For months, police investigated several unproductive leads in Neese's disappearance. Neese was initially considered to be a runaway by law enforcement authorities, and an Amber Alert was not immediately issued in connection with her disappearance. An early tip indicated that Neese had been seen in North Carolina, but the Star City Police Department determined that the person spotted was not Neese. Neese's parents posted flyers about their missing daughter in the Monongalia County region. Police determined that the unknown sedan in which Skylar Neese was last seen belonged to Eddy and interviewed her. Eddy admitted to picking up Neese but stated that she had dropped her off an hour later. The FBI and the West Virginia State Police joined the search for Skylar Neese on September 10, 2012, and began interviewing Neese's school friends.
The break in the case came when Rachel Shoaf admitted plotting with Shelia Eddy to kill Neese. The motivation Shoaf gave for the murder was they "didn't like her". Dave Neese stated that these two girls were among his daughter's best friends, and that Shelia Eddy had even helped the family look for her by distributing missing person fliers. After her confession, Rachel Shoaf led investigators to Neese's body. On March 13, 2013, U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II issued a press release stating that a body found in Wayne Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania on January 16, 2013 had been identified as the remains of Neese. Neese's remains were found less than 30 miles away from her home.
Neese maintained a close relationship with Eddy from when they were children but the friendship became strained when they met Shoaf while at high school. Neese reportedly became upset to see Eddy and Shoaf become close and allegedly witnessed the pair have sex at a sleepover. It was said the girls may have feared their secret tryst would become public.
On May 1, 2013, Rachel Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. According to the court transcript, Shoaf said that she and Shelia Eddy picked up Neese in Eddy's car. The girls drove to Pennsylvania, got out of the car, and began socializing. At a pre-arranged time, Shoaf and Eddy stabbed Skylar to death on the count of three. The teens attempted to bury Neese's body, but were unable to do so and instead covered the body with branches. The court transcript indicates that other students overheard conversations between Shoaf and Eddy about the murder plot, but failed to report it, thinking they were joking. According to Shoaf's plea agreement, she pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree by "unlawfully, feloniously, willfully, maliciously and intentionally causing the death of Skylar Neese by stabbing her and causing fatal injuries". In the plea agreement, the State of West Virginia will recommend a sentence of 40 years incarceration. Shoaf's family issued a public apology for her actions through their lawyer.
On September 4, 2013, West Virginia prosecutors publicly identified Shelia Eddy as the second alleged perpetrator of the murder of Skylar Neese and announced that she would be tried as an adult. Eddy was indicted by a grand jury on September 6, 2013 with one count of kidnapping, one count of first-degree murder, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Shelia Eddy pleaded not guilty to these charges.
The date of the trial was originally set for January 28, 2014. However, facing the prospect of charges from both federal and Pennsylvania authorities in addition to the West Virginia charges, Shelia Eddy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. As a result, Eddy was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years.
An Amber Alert was not issued in Neese's disappearance because the circumstances did not meet all four criteria for an alert to be issued: (1) a child is believed to be abducted; (2) the child is under 18; (3) the child may be in danger of death or serious injury; (4) there is sufficient information to indicate the Amber Alert would be helpful. A waiting period of 48 hours had to elapse before a "teenager" could be considered missing. A West Virginia state legislator from the Neese family home district introduced a bill called Skylar's Law to modify West Virginia's Amber Alert plan to issue immediate public announcements when any child is reported missing and in danger, regardless of whether the child is believed to have been kidnapped. Opinion columns appeared in both West Virginia and national media in support of Skylar's Law, some of which also acknowledged criticism and drawbacks of the legislation. On March 27, 2013, the West Virginia House of Delegates approved Skylar's Law with a 98-0 vote. On April 12, 2013, the West Virginia Senate unanimously passed the law, but made minor technical changes  to the bill which the House of Delegates voted to accept on the same day. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed the legislation into law in May 2013.
National media attention
On May 31, 2013, Anderson Cooper covered the story of Skylar Neese's murder.
On March 7, 2014, Dateline NBC aired an episode titled "Something Wicked" which chronicled the story of Skylar Neese's murder.
On March 10, 2014, the Dr. Phil show covered Skylar's story: Best Friends Betrayal. Her parents Dave and Mary were both present, as were two women who described themselves as "second mothers" to Rachel Shoaf.
On November 14, 2014, Investigation Discovery's show See No Evil covered Skylar's story in an episode titled "Skylar Neese". The show uses the real-life surveillance video of Skylar to piece together the last few hours of her life. First person interviews with her family, friends, and the investigators are used, along with limited dramatic recreation.
On March 26, 2016, ReelzChannel show Copycat Killers covered Skylar's story in an episode titled "Heathers".
On July 20, 2018, NBC showed Skylar's story on Dateline NBC season 26 episode 58 titled "Something Wicked"
- Child murder
- List of people who disappeared mysteriously
- Missing person
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- Murder of Shanda Sharer
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