We hear a lot about teenagers slaughtering their friends and family in the news. These occurrences are almost impossible to believe yet they happen, sometimes for apparently no reason. This blog details the stabbing death of 16-year-old Skylar Neese from her home in West Virginia and the astounding confession elicited from Rachel Shoaf and Sheila Eddy, Neese’s supposed two best friends who in reality became her most evil enemies. Neese never saw it coming.
The Grisly Discovery
Wayne County – Green County – Pennsylvania – July 6, 2012. A teenager named Rachel Shoaf led three detectives, including a retired FBI criminal profiler, to the wooded area where she claimed the remains of her former best friend lay. It was winter, snow was piled up knee-deep and no remains were to be found. Weeks later, one of the investigators returned on his own, taking a closer look at the supposed gravesite. And he found it. The decomposing remains of a 16-year-old girl wearing only a t-shirt and jeans, lay beneath the snow and ice. The body was bloodier than any corpse he’d ever seen. And the only thing the little girl had done to bring her to this fate was to fight with one of her supposed best friends.
Shoaf, Eddy and Neese
Once there were three little girls living in Morgantown, West Virginia. The 16-year-olds were pretty and sociable, taking selfies and spending time together. They were inseparable ‘bffs’ (best friends forever). For the most part, they got along very well until 2012, when Neese and Shoaf began to antagonize one another. Now they constantly fought. In the spring of 2012, Eddy and Shoaf were in science class and they joked about Neese when one of them said, ‘We should kill her.’ They gave each other a look of agreement and over the next month devised a plan they’d carry out before Shoaf left for summer camp. Shoaf took a shovel from her father’s house. Eddy got two knives from her mother’s kitchen. They put the shovel, cleaning supplies, and a change of clothes in the trunk of Shoaf’s car and drove to Neese’s apartment building. It was that simple.
Neese thought they were taking a joyride, maybe driving out to Brave, just across the Pennsylvania state line, where they’d gone before and gotten high. She brought her bong and Shoaf had her own pipe. There at the edge of the woods, they found a place to sit. When Neese got up to retrieve a lighter, Shoaf said, “On three“—that was the agreed-upon signal, a count of one, two, three—and they began stabbing her from behind. At one point she got away, but Shoaf tackled her. In the struggle, Neese managed to get the knife from Shoaf and cut her below the knee. But then Neese was overpowered. Neese was stabbed to death 52 times.
A plethora of information about the girls’ relationships were available to detectives, including Neese’s diary. Before Neese began to use Twitter, she wrote in the diary frequently. “Skylar wrote about Shelia’s sexcapades [in her diary]—she didn’t have any of her own,” Colebank, a detective who was assigned to the case stated. “I think she lived vicariously through Shelia, because Shelia would tell Skylar who she did it with; how they did it; if it was good, if it was bad; if he was big, if he was small. I think that’s one reason [Skylar] wasn’t sexually active. She didn’t need to be because she could live off the stories that Shelia was telling.”
One entry in particular stood out and revealed a lesbian attraction between Shoaf and Eddy. On August 21, 2011, Skylar detailed a night at Shoaf’s house when the three girls raided Shoaf’s mother’s liquor cabinet. “They got drunk and Shelia and Rachel proceeded to make out in every way you possibly can outside of actually effing—and Skylar said the word….She was locked in the bedroom with them and afraid to leave, because Patricia [Rachel’s mother] would find out they’d gotten into the liquor. So Skylar is having to sit there, watching them make out, because she didn’t want them to get caught!”
“There was never any sign. Not a mean kid, not a bully, didn’t torture animals, and it’s been a long two years trying to come to grips,” Kerns, a close family friend, appeared on the popular television program, ABC News’ “20/20.” “With all of the potential and morals, I don’t even get where this came from. Since first holding her moments after she was born, Kerns said she was very close to Shoaf. I’m not kidding, she was the only baby I was ever going to have. She loved life and there was no reason for her not to. People around her loved her.” I dare say few of them love Shoaf now.
Like all twists in a true-life horror story however, Kern noticed disturbing behaviours in Shoaf, including sneaking out, smoking marijuana and skipping class. Kerns thought they were typical teenage antics. Shoaf kept her grades up, stayed involved in the school theater program and continued to take singing, piano and acting lessons. By the summer of 2012, however, Kerns and Shoaf spent less “quality time” together. But on the morning of July 6, 2012, Kerns said Shoaf made a last-minute decision to spend the day on her boat with her and with Shoaf’s mother, Patricia.
A substitute teacher, Kerns started hearing countless rumors at Shoaf’s school about what happened to Neese. “The story starts unraveling, and we find out they were together. It just keeps evolving from searches of the house, of the schools. The girls ended up having to be homeschooled because of all the talk. And the FBI, you know, searched their lockers and took computers. …We knew the girls knew something….“I still love this child. You can’t stop loving a child.”
“There were rumors that Skylar, Rachel, and Shelia were doing drugs and Skylar overdosed and they were scared so they ditched her body somewhere,” Hovatter, a classmate talked about school rumours. “You had people who wanted to get attention pretending to know what was happening, but no one knew,” added Morgan Lawrence, another UHS classmate and friend of Neese, “except the two people who wouldn’t say anything.”
One of the behavioral traits attributed to Shoaf and Eddy by professionals was the technological aspect of the girls’ relationship. “There is 100 percent a lack of empathy on the Internet. You don’t have to deal with the natural consequences of your behavior,” says Jamie Howard, PhD, a clinical psychologist at New York’s Child Mind Institute. “You say things you wouldn’t say, and your conduct is harsher.” Psychologists believe that technology obstructs empathy’s development and fosters detachment. That is often the case among young people who have disagreements. However, FBI profiler Jim Clemente, commented, “It’s a complex mix of bio, psycho, and social. I describe it as this: When somebody kills, genetics loads the gun, personality and psychology aim it, and what you’ve experienced pulls the trigger.”
The three high school sophomores had been inseparable, but in the days leading up to her death, Neese’s Twitter account showed that something had gone awry. On July 4, 2012, two days before she was murdered, Neese tweeted “it really doesn’t take much to p*** me off” and “sick of being at f****** home. Thanks “friends,” love hanging out with you all too.” The day before she was killed, Neese tweeted, “you doing s*** like that is why I can NEVER completely trust you.” Neese’s last tweet, sent out hours before she snuck out of her bedroom window after midnight on July 6, 2012, was a retweet from a friend who had posted, “All I do is hope.”
Before the murder, Neese, Shoaf and Eddy tweeted together frequently. The lion’s share of the tweets—4,374—came from Eddy, who enough time to write almost as many as Shoaf and Neese combined: i wish it was acceptable to be naked all the time… kardashian marathon, love my life…it’s okay if you hate me as long as i hated you first… i miss my bestfwend … love having the upper hand…stepdad, stop walking around the house without a shirt, it’s gross. not to mention your boobs are bigger than mine. …i wonder what it’s like to be good at math… shit i love my hair long, im never gonna cut it…there’s a reason why “sober” and “so bored” sound almost exactly the same.
Eddy’s Tweets – 2013 In the months that followed the vicious murder, Eddy regularly tweeted about watching TV, school, hating homework and other typical teenage things. She even tweeted about her and Shoaf’s close friendship. In the months following her incarceration Eddy’s Tweets became more bizarre.
Among the last of Neese’s heartbreaking Tweets were these comments:
- May 31, 2012: youre a twofaced bitch and obviously fucking stupid if you thought I wouldnt find out.
- June 9, a retweet: won’t miss anyone from school over summer cause if we’re really friends, we’ll hangout. If we aren’t we won’t. Just know I know.
- June 10: hope you dont expect me to give a fuck anymore #bye.
- July 5: you doing shit like that is why I will NEVER completely trust you. All I do is hope.
Shoaf found the pressure from the police and the kids at school unendurable. Around winter break the girls began to be homeschooled rather than return to UHS. As the investigation progressed during the fall, the consensus among all the branches of law enforcement, local police, state troopers, and the FBI, was that Shoaf and Eddy knew more than they were telling. During one of several investigations, Shoaf was uncomfortable and deliberately evasive. Eddy, on the other hand, “had great posture, her hands folded on the table, she’d look you in the eye and speak matter-of-factly. She wanted to know what we were thinking, what we thought. And she would apologize for changing her story so many times. She would use excuses, like, ‘It was late,’ or, ‘I wasn’t keeping track of the time.’ She would try to layer her perception of events that happened with a cloud of doubt over some of the facts that we could stick to her. We sometimes don’t even see that with the career criminals.”
Finally Shoaf agreed to a polygraph test but at the last minute, changed her mind. Police discovered this when Tara, her mother, arrived at the Star City police station to pick up her daughter’s electronics, which investigators had confiscated. When one detective, Colebank asked Tara if she knew where Rachel was, she replied, ” ‘Well, Rachel’s down in my car.” Colebank admitted, “That just pissed me off that she was helping them keep up their lives. Then she said, ‘I wish you’d quit picking on my daughter. You’re making her life hell.’ And I was like, ‘Good. I’m glad we’re making her miserable because she is lying.’ She got mad at me, and I called her a fucking tool.” Colebank was kicked off the case.
So distraught was Shoaf that before Christmas, she suffered a mental breakdown and was briefly hospitalized. Then on December 28, Monongalia County received a 911 call. “I have an issue with a 16-year-old daughter of mine. I can’t control her anymore. She’s hitting us, she’s screaming, she’s running through the neighborhood,” Patricia Shoaf pants. In the background Rachel wails unintelligibly. “Give me the phone. No! No! This is over. This is over!” And then to the dispatcher: “My husband’s trying to contain her. Please hurry.” Shoaf”s conscience was pressed to the breaking point. surfaced. She readily confessed to police “The first three words out of her mouth were: ‘We stabbed her.’ The agent and I were speechless for a little bit. Then we were like, ‘Let’s start over. Tell us exactly what happened. What do you mean you stabbed her?’ “
Rachel pulled over a wastepaper basket in case she vomited and proceeded to recount the events in detail, unburdening herself of her sins. She confessed that she and Eddy were responsible for Neese’s disappearance, and that they had brutally stabbed Neese to death and left her body in the woods in Pennsylvania.
She led authorities to the murder scene, located across state lines in Brave, (irony)Pennsylvania and recounted how she and Eddy meticulously planned to kill their best friend. Fittingly, both were charged as adults.
The next morning, investigators Spurlock and Gaskins pulled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot in Granville, West Virginia, as Eddy and her mother were about to get into their car. “She was more shocked than caught.” For 10 months Edd had so often repeated and impressed upon others her version of events to the authorities, to family, to friends, to Twitter followers, she’d probably convinced herself she’d gotten away with murder. Finally Eddy was scared. “She said, ‘Don’t put me in with any mean people.” Ever the narcissist, she asked him if he had anything she could use to put her hair up. “Those are unusual requests, given the totality of the circumstances,” he said. “She also didn’t want to be seen in the back of the squad car: ‘People can see me back here!’ I said, ‘Yes, Shelia, they can—you’ve been charged with first-degree murder.’ “
While the authorities built their case against Eddy—and worked to move the girls from juvenile to adult status—they struck a deal with Shoaf. In exchange for her cooperation and testimony against Eddy, she would agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder. Still shoring up their case, they allowed her to go on a vacation in April with her mother.
The courtroom of Judge Russell Clawges on January 24, 2014, was filled with spectators wearing purple—Neese’s favorite color. Mary Neese, resembling Elizabeth Taylor, with her black hair and azure eyes, was sitting in the gallery, a box of tissues at her feet. Dave sat next to her, holding her hand, his face as tight as a fist. Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years on Feb. 26, 2014, with the possibility of parole in 10 years. Eddy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for her role in Neese’s death and was sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 24, 2014, with the possibility of parole in 15 years. Fifteen years. We hope not.
A month later Shoaf entered the same courtroom, virtually unrecognizable: She’d gained weight, her skin was doughy, and her beautiful long red hair cut shorter. Everyone expected the actress to speak, and she did. “I am so sorry. I don’t know if there’s a proper way to make this apology because there are not even words to describe the guilt and remorse that I feel each day for what I’ve done. The person that did that was not the real me, not the person I am, not what I’m made of, and not what I believe in. I don’t think I ever thought this would ever happen. I became scared and caught up in something that I did not want to do. I never realized the gravity of my actions, and how many people I have hurt. I hurt the Neese family and those who loved Skylar. I hurt my parents and shamed my family…. I hurt my teachers and those who believed in me.… And I hurt my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. May God bring eternal peace to Skylar and the entire Neese family.… And I pray each day for forgiveness.”
Quite an actress, Shoaf had been able to cry in front of the court. Crocodile tears.