Former Virginia Tech student convicted in 13-year-old girl's murder

Feb 9 (Reuters) - A former Virginia Tech student was convicted of kidnapping and murdering a 13-year-old girl after telling the judge overseeing his trial that he wanted to enter a plea of no contest on Friday, a local prosecutor said.

David Eisenhauer, 19, was convicted of abducting, killing and concealing the body of middle-school student Nicole Lovell in January 2016, according to Mary Pettitt, the chief prosecutor in Montgomery County, Virginia. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison.

Lovell's body was found stabbed by a rural North Carolina roadside, about 90 miles south of her hometown of Blacksburg. She had disappeared four days earlier from Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech is located, and the crime left the university and local community reeling.

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Former Virginia Tech student accused of killing teen girl
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Former Virginia Tech student accused of killing teen girl
A combination photo shows David Eisenhauer (L) and Natalie Marie Keepers in these booking photos provided by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office on January 31, 2016. Courtesy Montgomery County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
This is #davideisenhauer 's first interaction with police after he waived his Miranda rights. @ABC13News https://t.co/z3v5wvf7RY
Here is what’s being shown in court. David Eisenhauer walking out of the Christiansburg Wal-Mart with a shovel in h… https://t.co/d3t1sXZwPl
David Eisenhauer is pictured in this undated handout booking photo provided by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office in Virginia, January 31, 2016. Eisenhauer, an engineering student at Virginia Tech, has been charged with the abduction and murder of a 13-year-old girl whose remains were found in North Carolina on Saturday after a four-day search, police said. REUTERS/Montgomery County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
David Eisenhauer has changed his plea to "no contest" on all charges related to the death of Nicole Lovell:… https://t.co/WuUCcPMDdz
Former Va. Tech student David Eisenhauer pleads no contest to murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell https://t.co/8poXuBncyh
David Eisenhauer is pictured in this undated handout booking photo provided by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office in Virginia, January 31, 2016. Eisenhauer, an engineering student at Virginia Tech, has been charged with the abduction and murder of a 13-year-old girl whose remains were found in North Carolina on Saturday after a four-day search, police said. REUTERS/Montgomery County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
#DavidEisenhauer's parents listen to the defense's cross-examination of Blackburg Police's Deana Jones as she talks… https://t.co/BVi9Rkk2oA
As David Eisenhauer's trial for the murder of Nicole Lovell continues, his lawyer is shifting the focus to Natalie… https://t.co/HxytNPmT4O
Here are pictures that Czernicki took of #davideisenhauer's car trunk. The third one is what he said ended up testi… https://t.co/3DmxrnykLj
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Eisenhauer may have had an inappropriate relationship with Lovell, the Washington Post has reported. Lovell told a friend she planned to run away with Eisenhauer and start a family, the Post reported.

Under Virginia law, a defendant can plead no contest without admitting to the crime if the defendant agrees that the prosecutor has enough evidence that the court return a guilty verdict. It is treated the same as a guilty plea for conviction and sentencing.

A second former Virginia Polytechnic Institute student, Natalie Keepers, who is charged with being Eisenhauer's accomplice and helping to conceal Lovell's body faces trial later this year after pleading not guilty.

Keepers, 20, became friends with Eisenhauer, a fellow engineering student, before Lovell's abduction, according to police in Blacksburg. Keepers also faces life in prison if convicted.

In brief, emotional remarks made after the hearing on Friday, Lovell's mother, Tammy Weeks, said she was blessed to raise a "bright and beautiful girl."

"We fought every fight together but this last one," Weeks said, clutching a tissue.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Adler)

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