Friday, January 24, 2014
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia teenager has been sentenced to life in prison with the chance for parole in the stabbing death of her one-time best friend.
Shelia Eddy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder under a plea agreement in Monongalia County Circuit Court.
Judge Russell Clawges on Friday sentenced Eddy to life with mercy, meaning the 18-year-old Morgantown woman would be eligible for parole after serving 15 years.
Under the plea agreement, a kidnapping charge and two counts of conspiracy were dropped.
Star City 16-year-old Skylar Neese was lured out of her house in July 2012, stabbed to death and her body hidden across the Pennsylvania border.
Prosecutors say Eddy and friend Rachel Shoaf plotted the murder, though the motive has never been revealed. Shoaf awaits sentencing.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
A West Virginia teenager pleaded guilty to a first-degree murder charge Friday in the stabbing death of her one-time best friend.
Shelia Eddy entered into a plea agreement Friday in Monongalia County Circuit Court in the July 2012 death of 16-year-old Skylar Neese. Eddy's trial was scheduled to start next week.
Under the agreement, prosecutors agreed to recommend mercy, meaning that the 18-year-old Morgantown woman would be eligible for parole after serving 15 years. In return for Eddy's plea, a kidnapping charge and two counts of conspiracy will be dropped.
Eddy, wearing glasses and an orange prison suit with her hair pulled into a ponytail, was visibly upset after entering the courtroom and her voice broke when giving short answers to Judge Russell Clawges, who then asked her how she pleaded.
"Guilty," Eddy said, her voice cracking.
Prosecutors say Eddy and another friend, Rachel Shoaf, lured Neese out of her ground-floor bedroom in Star City in July 2012, drove her to a secluded spot near the unincorporated West Virginia community of Macdale, then stabbed her to death at an agreed-upon moment.
Authorities said the girls covered the body of the University High honors student with branches when they couldn't bury her, and it lay in a wooded area across the Pennsylvania border for months.
The break in the case came in January 2013. Prosecutors say that's when Shoaf finally cracked and told investigators the truth — and where to find the body.
Shoaf pleaded guilty last May to second-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors have said they plan to recommend a 20-year prison sentence for Shoaf and will oppose any move to have her sentenced as a juvenile. But she could get as many as 40 years under the law.
Prosecutors never divulged a motive. Shoaf told police the girls no longer wanted to be friends with Neese.
Though Eddy's name was no secret in the community, authorities didn't make it public until September, when they transferred her case from juvenile to adult court.
Skylar Neese was initially considered a runaway and no Amber Alert was issued to publicly notify people of her disappearance. Last year, the Legislature tweaked the state's Amber Alert process that had limited it to cases where a child is believed to be abducted. The revised law now requires law enforcement to relay initial reports of any missing child to state police, regardless if the person is a runaway. Amber Alert personnel would then decide whether or not to issue an alert.