A 17-year-old West Virginia girl pleaded not guilty Tuesday in what prosecutors say was the premeditated stabbing death of her one-time best friend in a wooded area along the Pennsylvania border last summer.
Shelia Eddy offered only brief answers to questions from Monongalia Circuit Judge Russell Clawges, then said “not guilty” to one count each of first-degree murder and kidnapping, and two counts of conspiracy.
Clawges tentatively scheduled her trial for the week of Oct. 22 as friends of 16-year-old victim Skylar Neese wept and Neese’s father, Dave, glared at the girl he used to consider a second daughter.
“I miss Skylar that much more when I see her,” he said of Eddy after the court appearance. “She’s exactly where she belongs, though — if she committed the murder of my daughter, she deserves to be exactly where she is: in jail.”
Prosecutors say Eddy and another friend, Rachel Shoaf, lured Skylar 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 haven’t revealed a potential motive but say the girls covered Skylar’s body with branches when they couldn’t bury her, and it lay there for months.
Under questioning in January, Shoaf told police that she and Eddy had committed the crime, and she directed them to the body. She pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge May 1 and is awaiting sentencing.
Though Eddy’s name was no secret in the community, authorities didn’t make it public until earlier this month, when they transferred her case from juvenile to adult court.
Petite and pale with flowing, dark blond hair, Eddy entered the Morgantown courtroom in an orange jumpsuit, and wrist and ankle shackles amid tight security. Seven sheriff’s deputies, most wearing body armor, kept close watch — two next to Eddy and her lawyer, Mike Benninger, and three at the end of the benches where Dave Neese and supporters sat. One woman wore a white T-shirt with the handwritten plea “Justice for Skylar.”
Eddy waited through more than a dozen arraignments before hers, glancing frequently at the section of the courtroom where Dave Neese sat — first smiling, then looking more somber and sniffling.
David Neese left the courtroom but returned. Later, he said, “Why did she keep looking at me? She was trying to get a reaction.” He remained silent during the five-minute proceeding, then cursed Eddy softly as deputies led her out.
Neese said he still can’t fathom how two girls his daughter loved could turn on her. “You think somebody’s your friend and they turn around and kill you?” he said. “Come on! That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.
“I will never, ever understand it,” he added.
Shania Ammons, a 17-year-old senior at Clay Battelle High School, lives near the area where her friend’s body was found and has known Eddy since the fourth-grade. Eddy once lived in that rural part of the county before moving to Morgantown to attend University High School with Skylar Neese.
After the hearing, Ammons recounted how Eddy told her the girls had gone out for a joyride before dropping Skylar off at home. “I believed everything she told me. Her story never changed. “
The arraignment was the first time Ammons had seen her former friend since the day of her arrest, and she, too, remains baffled by the possible motive.
“I have tried and tried to figure it out, and there seems to be none,” Ammons said. “They were inseparable. Like sisters. ... They were together 24-7. They talked constantly. They knew everything about each other’s lives.”
Neese said his wife, Mary, couldn’t handle being in court Tuesday, but he plans to attend every day of Eddy’s trial, no matter how long it takes.
He said he’s had no contact from Eddy, her family or her attorney.
“I don’t want to, either,” he said.