Sixteen-year-old Skylar Neese disappeared from her home in Star City, West Virginia around midnight on July 6, 2012. Neese’s remains were found on January 16, 2013 in Wayne Township, Pennsylvania. On May 1, 2013, teenager Rachel Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, telling authorities that she and another teenager, Shelia Eddy, planned and carried out Neese’s murder. Neese’s disappearance led to new West Virginia legislation that made changes to the Amber Alert missing child alert system.
On July 6, 2012 Neese returned to her family’s Star City, West Virginia apartment after working a shift at a fast food restaurant. She disappeared from her home that night. According to her father David Neese, apartment complex surveillance video showed the teenager leaving the apartment by the window around midnight and getting into an unknown sedan. Neese’s father said that she did not take her cell phone charger, that her window was left open, and that she planned on coming home.
For months police investigated several unproductive leads in Neese’s disappearance. Neese was initially considered to be a runaway by law enforcement authorities, and an Amber Alert was not immediately issued in connection with her disappearance. An early tip indicated that Neese had been seen in North Carolina, but the Star City Police Department determined that the individual spotted was not Neese. Neese’s parents posted fliers about their missing daughter in the Monongalia County region. Police determined that the unknown sedan in which Skylar Neese was last seen belonged to one of her friends and interviewed her. The friend (Rachel Shoaf) admitted picking up Neese but stated that she had dropped her off an hour later. The Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the search for Skylar Neese on September 10, 2012, and began interviewing Neese’s school friends.
A major break in the case was made when Rachael Shoaf admitted plotting with fellow teenager Shelia Eddy to kill her Dave Neese stated that these two girls were among his daughter’s best friends, and that they had helped the family look for her by distributing missing person fliers. After her confession, Rachel Shoaf led investigators to Neese’s body. On March 13, 2013, U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II released a press release stating that a body found in Wayne Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania on January 16, 2013 had been scientifically identified as being the remains of Neese. Neese’s remains were found less than 30 miles away from her home.
On May 1, 2013, Rachel Shoaf pleaded guilty to second degree murder. According to the court transcript, Shoaf said that she and Shelia Eddy picked up Neese in Shoaf’s car. The girls drove to Pennsylvania, got out of the car, and began socializing. At a pre-arranged time, Shoaf and Eddy stabbed Skylar to death on the count of three. The teens attempted to bury Neese’s body, but were unable to do so and instead covered the body with branches. The court transcript indicates that other students overheard conversations between Shoaf and Eddy about the murder plot, but failed to report it, thinking they were joking. According to Shoaf’s plea agreement, she pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree by “unlawfully, feloniously, willfully, maliciously and intentionally causing the death of Skylar Neese by stabbing her and causing fatal injuries”. In the plea agreement, the State of West Virginia will recommend a sentence of twenty years incarceration. Shoaf’s family issued a public apology for her actions through their lawyer.
On September 4, 2013, West Virginia prosecutors publicly identified Shelia Eddy as the second alleged perpetrator of the murder of Skylar Neese and announced that she will be tried as an adult. Eddy was indicted by a grand jury on September 6, 2013 with one count of kidnapping, one count of first-degree murder, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Sheila Eddy, 16, of Morgantown (reminds me of Megaton), West Virginia, appeared in Monongalia County court on September 17, being tried as an adult. Rachel Shoaf, 16, pleaded guilty to stabbing her friend Skylar Neese, 16, to death last summer. As previously mentioned, Shoaf has already confessed to the killing and is awaiting sentencing.
An Amber Alert was not issued in Neese’s disappearance because the circumstances did not meet all four criteria for an alert to be issued: (1) That a child is believed to be abducted; (2) The child is under 18; (3) The child may be in danger of death or serious injury; and (4) There is sufficient information to indicate the Amber Alert would be helpful. A waiting period of 48 hours had to elapse before a teenager could be considered missing. A West Virginia state legislator from the Neese family home district introduced a bill called Skylar’s Law to modify West Virginia’s Amber Alert plan to issue immediate public announcements when any child is reported missing and in danger, regardless of whether the child is believed to have been kidnapped. Opinion columns appeared in both West Virginia and national media in support of Skylar’s Law, some of which also acknowledged criticism and drawbacks of the legislation. On March 27, 2013, the West Virginia House of Delegates approved Skylar’s Law with a 98-0 vote. On April 12, 2013 the West Virginia State Senate unanimously passed the law, but made minor technical changes to the bill which the House of Delegates voted to accept on the same day. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed the legislation into law in May 2013.
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