MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Inside a Monongalia County courtroom heavy with emotion, 17-year-old Rachel Shoaf apologized to the family of murdered classmate Skylar Neese, claiming “that was not the real me” who helped stab the girl to death in 2012.
Circuit Judge Russell Clawges subsequently sentenced Shoaf to 30 years in prison Wednesday, imposing a harsher penalty than the 20-year sentence prosecutors recommended in a plea bargain. Defense attorneys requested Shoaf be sentenced as a juvenile, but Clawges claimed “that would not be justice.”
“I really wanted 40 years (the maximum sentence), but 30 is good,” said Skylar’s father, Dave Neese, after the hearing.
Shoaf will be eligible for parole in 10 years. She is currently housed at a juvenile facility and will remain there at least until she turns 18, at which time the court will discuss transferring her to an adult detention center.
The sentencing of Shoaf, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, followed that of cohort Shelia Eddy, 18, who last month pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. They admitted to killing 16-year-old Skylar Neese the night of July 6, 2012, by driving their University High classmate to Greene County, Pa., about 30 miles west of Morgantown, where they coordinated the fatal stabbing with kitchen knives and tried to unsuccessfully to bury her body. They subsequently covered Neese with branches in a ditch, where it remained undiscovered until Shoaf led police back to the scene seven months later.
“(Rachel Shoaf) can take her apologies and sit on them. She’s made my life a living hell. The only reason she cooperated was because she was caught.” — Dave Neese, father of murdered 16-year-old Skylar Neese
Shoaf, dressed in a blaze-orange prison jumpsuit and wearing handcuffs and shackles, faced the Neese family as she addressed the court. She fought back tears while apologizing for the brutal crime.
“I’m so sorry. No words can describe the remorse I feel,” Shoaf read from a statement. “That was not the real me. I became scared and caught up in something I did not want to do.”
The apology was no consolation to Dave Neese, who said “She can take her apologies and sit on them,” upon speaking to the judge. “She’s made my life a living hell. The only reason she cooperated was because she was caught.”
Monongalia County Prosecutor Marcia Ashdown revealed more details about the vicious murder. Ashdown read from statements made by Shoaf outlining how she and Eddy had several conversations about killing Skylar and that they picked that specific night to drive her across testate line.
Ashdown said Shoaf estimated they stabbed the girl at least 10 times, and when Skylar’s neck “made weird sounds” they didn’t stop until the sounds ceased. Recounting the confession, Ashdown said Shoaf acknowledged tackling Skylar as she tried to run away.
Police questioned Shoaf and Eddy multiple times following Skylar’s disappearance but didn’t get a break in the case until Nov. 30, 2012, when authorities interviewed the pair once more and this time their stories didn’t match. Not long after, Shoaf agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for her cooperation in the case.
“Her reward is more than sufficient,” Ashdown said of Shoaf’s plea bargain.
Though Shoaf’s sentencing ends the courtroom chapter of the case, Dave Neese insisted there will never be closure.
“One day at a time,” he said. “Every day is a difference scenario. We’ll try to put the pieces back together and keep going.”