Role of social media in death of Virginia teen

Posted at 11:20 PM, Feb 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-02 06:32:07-05

David Eisenhauer was a star on the track team at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia.  Last March, ABC2 News profiled the 18-year-old as the student athlete of the week.

"I realize in the moment that I am doing things other people wish they could be doing, and yet I still have goals for myself because there are people who are better than me," Eisenhauer said.

He started his freshman year at Virginia Tech, and was running for the school's cross country team.  This weekend, he was arrested and charged with the abduction and murder of Nicole Lovell, a 7th grader from Blacksburg, Virginia.         

The 13-year-old disappeared last week, setting off an intense four day search.  Saturday afternoon her body was discovered about 80 miles from campus in North Carolina.

"It’s with a heavy heart that I have to announce that we've located the remains of 13-year-old Nicole Madison Lovell," Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson said Saturday.

Monday, Eisenhauer and fellow tech freshman, Natalie Keepers, made their first court appearance.  Police say the 19-year-old from Laurel helped Eisenhauer get rid of Lovell’s body.           

The arrests have people who know the Howard County teens reeling.

"He was just a very pleasant young man,” said Wilde Lake High School principal James Lemon.  “But very goal driven, focused on his academics, but he was also very focused on running, he was an outstanding runner."

According to arrest paperwork, when Eisenhauer was charged with abduction he told officers "I believe the truth can set me free."  But when the murder charge was added, he had no comment.           

"Based on evidence collected to date, we have determined that Eisenhauer and Nicole were acquainted prior to her disappearance,” Blacksburg Police Lt. Mike Albert said Sunday.  “Eisenhauer used this relationship to his advantage to abduct then kill her."

Lovell's mother told the Washington Post that her daughter was bullied at school and on social media.  ABC2 News found a post the 13-year-old made on the Facebook page "Teen Dating and Flirting.”  The selfie got 304 comments, many of them vicious.

Experts say this should be a wake-up call for parents.

"Child predators know that they can get to children that are not being monitored, and they can manipulate children, and coerce them into doing things maybe they normally wouldn't be doing,” Maryland State Police Detective Sgt. John Linton said.

"The criminals are getting directly into their bedrooms through their electronic devices, that's the problem that we face these days,’ Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for Maryland, said.  “There's really nowhere a child can be fully protected if they have a device that connects to the internet and the parent doesn’t know what they're doing on that device."        

Rosenstein and Linton say parents need to communicate ground rules with their kids for social media and constantly monitor what they're doing.    

Right now, it's not clear exactly what role social media played in this case.  ABC2 News did learn from the arrest warrant that no gun was used in Lovell’s murder.

Both Eisenhauer and Keepers will be back in court on March 28.

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