MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monongalia County teenager Shelia Eddy admitted Friday that she, along with Rachel Shoaf, murdered high school classmate and former best friend Skylar Neese.
Eddy, 18, was scheduled to face trial next week but decided to plead guilty to first-degree murder with mercy. Though the conviction carries a life sentence, she will be eligible for parole after 15 years.
At the hearing, Judge Russell Clawges asked Eddy a series of questions to ensure she understood her plea. Eddy admitted her guilt but offered no explanation for the crime.
Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May and is awaiting sentencing. She was expected to testify against Eddy had the trial come to fruition.
Sylar’s father, Dave, addressed the court prior to sentencing, saying he was “speaking on behalf of my daughter because she can’t be here.”
The tearful Neese said, “We are no longer a family. You can see the faces of the killer, but you can’t see Skylar’s face. You can’t imagine how Mary and I now feel.”
The plea ended one of the most gut-wrenching and confounding murder investigations in West Virginia in years.
An honor student at University High, Neese disappeared July 6, 2012, after sneaking out the bedroom window of her parent’s apartment in Star City to meet up with Eddy and Shoaf. When she did not return home and failed to show up at her job at Wendy’s the next day, authorities presumed Neese had run away. However, her parents immediately suspected foul play.
Authorities claim Eddy and Shoaf drove Neese to Greene County, Pa., about 30 miles west of Morgantown, where they coordinated the fatal stabbing with kitchen knives and tried to bury her body. Instead, they covered Neese’s body with branches in a ditch, where it remained undiscovered until Shoaf led police back to the scene seven months later.
Monongalia County prosecuting attorney Marcia Ashdown told the court, “at an agreed upon signal, a countdown actually, those two girls, Shelia Eddy and Rachel Shoaf, stabbed Skylar to death. They stood over her until her last breath.”
Investigators have struggled to comprehend a motive for Neese’s slaying beyond Shoaf’s statement that she and Eddy “didn’t want to be friends with her anymore.”
Ashdown said Eddy and Shoaf were worried that Neese would “divulge their secrets.” She did not elaborate on what those secrets were, although she implied Eddy and Shoaf may have had a relationship.
“It was a conspiracy to rid themselves of their friend,” Ashdown said.
Eddy’s defense attorney, Michael Benninger, spoke on behalf of Eddy and her family and apologized for the crime.
“Shelia Eddy and her family recognize the Neese family is in a constant state of despair, lonliness and saddness,” Benninger said. “For that, Shelia Eddy and her family are, and will be eternally sorry. … We hope all families … tragically affected can move forward in a more peaceful and hopeful way.”
All three were classmates at University High School and appeared to be best friends. Dave Neese described Eddy as being like another daughter in his home and said Eddy even helped with the search after Skylar was reported missing.
The case became the subject of intense social media interaction among the girls’ classmates, who seemed at times to know more about the case than authorities.
Though state police focused on Skylar’s friends early in the investigation, the Neeses couldn’t fathom how Shoaf and Eddy were involved. Mary Neese even told investigators, “No. You guys, they are having as hard a time with this as we are.”
It wasn’t until Shaof agreed to cooperate that authorities were able to make arrests.
The case led the West Virginia Legislature to pass Skylar’s Law, making it easier for law agencies to rapidly issue Amber Alerts when a child is reported missing.