Surry County apparently was picked at random for the disposal of a girl’s body in a case for which two Virginia Tech students have now been arrested.
“I am not aware of any connection either the victim or the two suspects have to Surry County,” Sheriff Graham Atkinson said Monday.
“Nothing that I’ve heard makes me believe there was any kind of a connection here,” Atkinson added.
The body of Nicole Madison Lovell, 13, of Blacksburg, Virginia, was discovered Saturday off N.C. 89 at Lowgap, in an area near Snowbird Curve where a road-construction project recently occurred. Atkinson described the site where the girl’s’ remains were found as above the Rocky Top store site, not far from N.C. 18 just south of the Virginia border.
“My understanding is she was way off down in the woods there,” the sheriff said of the victim’s remains.
The officer in charge of the investigation, Lt. Mike Albert of the Blacksburg Police Department, was not immediately available for comment Monday regarding any new developments in the case.
But media reports from Virginia indicate that two people have been charged in the death by Blacksburg police, David Edmond Eisenhauer, 18, of Columbia, Maryland, a freshman at Virginia Tech, and a fellow engineering student, Natalie Marie Keepers, 19, of Laurel, Maryland.
Eisenhauer is charged with first-degree murder and abduction, while Keepers is facing a felony charge of improper disposal of a body and a misdemeanor offense of accessory after the fact in the commission of a felony. Eisenhauer was arrested Saturday and Keepers on Sunday.
Virginia authorities say Eisenhauer knew Nicole Madison Lovell and an investigation shows he used that relationship to abduct her before disposing of the girl’s body with the assistance of the other Tech student.
Both are being held without privilege of bond in the Montgomery County Jail. They had first appearances in court in Christiansburg Monday.
The cause of death did not involve a firearm, according to arrest warrants.
Sheriff Atkinson said he was notified about the discovery of the body Saturday while he was at a local church during the visitation period for his nephew, Dave Wilmoth, who had been killed in a traffic accident Thursday night.
Once local authorities became aware that the probe was being led by outside investigators, the Surry Sheriff’s Office mainly played a standby role, including securing the scene where the remains were found, supplying equipment and providing other support as needed.
It has had no active role in the investigation, Atkinson added.
The 13-year-old girl went missing Wednesday from her home in Blacksburg, where family members found a dresser pushed up against her bedroom door.
There was concern that the girl, a liver transplant recipient, could suffer liver failure in the absence of daily prescription medication.
Police received about 300 tips regarding the disappearance, some of which reportedly led to the site in Surry, but no specific information has been released regarding that.
Sunday, police were on the Virginia Tech campus, where a search and recovery team was focusing on a pond in connection with the girl’s death.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.