The roads in Morgantown were slick and dangerous on Feb. 10, 1996. Ice and snow pummeled the area, causing traffic problems all over Monongalia County.
Dave Neese, of Star City, remembers the day well. He and his wife Mary Neese brought home their daughter Skylar from the hospital that night. Looking back, the moment is even more special for the Neeses — Skylar is their only child.
Sunday marks Skylar’s 17th birthday.
But the University High School student likely won’t be attending. The honors student has been missing for the last seven months.
“There is nothing to describe this; it’s pure hell,” Dave Neese said on WAJR’s Morgantown AM. “It’s not good. It’s a void in your life. We love that child unconditionally.”
Skylar disappeared on July 7. A surveillance camera near her home showed her sneaking out of a window before climbing into a four-door sedan. It’s unknown who was in the car other than Skylar.
Since then, there has been no sign of the teenager: no phone records, no credit card purchases, no posts on social media.
Several tips to law enforcement proved to be dead ends. A reported sighting in North Carolina turned out to be a different missing child.
Star City Police Chief Vic Propst previously said he believed Skylar’s friends may know more than what they admitted to police. At this point, there have been few positive updates since Skylar vanished.
“We take it one day at a time. We’re doing as well as can be expected, I guess,” Dave Neese said. “This is a parent’s worst nightmare.”
When asked Thursday whether there was an update on Skylar’s case, Dave Neese was brief.
“Not that we can talk about, no,” he said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies are investigating. The FBI has not officially commented on the case.
Skylar has a large group of friends, was involved in several activities and always wanted to pursue a career as a lawyer, Dave Neese said.
“And she could argue well enough that you would never dispute that,” he said.
Family members have organized a vigil for Sunday at the Neese’s Star City home to celebrate Skylar’s birthday. Hopes of finding Skylar have not faded for residents and friends close to the Neese family.
“We wanted to get together with all the people from Facebook who have supported us and all that and let them know we’re celebrating Skylar’s birthday,” Dave Neese said. “I want everyone to celebrate her birthday.”
The vigil is open to the public at the Neese home, located at 501 Crawford Avenue in Star City. It begins at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Skylar’s case has promoted local lawmakers to take a bill to Charleston that would reform state Amber Alert rules. The Skylar Neese Bill would allow law enforcement to begin investigations as soon as a child is missing, even if that child is considered a runaway. Police did not immediately investigate Skylar’s case, because they believed she left voluntarily and was not in imminent danger.
Monongalia County Delegate Charlene Marshall said this week the bill will be one of her top priorities when the Legislature begins the regular session.
“In most states, they believe that if you start the investigation immediately, you have a better chance of tracking down where these children might be,” Marshall said. “We want to expand coverage of the Amber Alert plan.”
Numerous other delegates have agreed to support the bill at the Capitol.
While he believes a law protecting children in the future is a step in the right direction, Dave Neese still is focused on his own child.
He longs for a reunion with his daughter — one more hug from Skylar.
“Everybody who has a child at home now: love them. Hug them. You do not know, and don’t want to know, what we’re going through,” he said.