The day before the murder of Skylar Neese, the teen tweeted of her friends, "you doing s* like that is why I can NEVER completely trust you."
Skylar Neese was a 16-year-old honor student with a bright future. She loved to read, had an active social life and, like most teens, was all about posting her thoughts on social media. She also never missed a day of work at her part-time job at a local Wendy’s. But on July 6, 2012, Skylar Neese snuck out of her bedroom window to meet up with her two best friends, Shelia Eddy and Rachel Shoaf.
The teen never returned.
A Close-Knit Trio
Skylar Neese, Shelia Eddy, and Rachel Shoaf attended University High School together just north of Morgantown, West Virginia. Neese had known Eddy since she was eight years old and Eddy had met Shoaf their freshman year.
The trio was inseparable and Neese was said to have served as an emotional rock for the other two girls, as both Eddy and Shoaf had parents who had divorced. Neese, however, was an only child and her parents wanted everything for her. They nurtured her intelligence and encouraged her to be her own person.
“Skylar thought she could save her,” Neese’s mother, Mary Neese, said of her daughter’s relationship with Eddy. “I would hear her on the phone givin’ Shelia all kinds of hell: ‘Don’t be stupid! What were you thinkin’?’ On the other hand, Shelia was so much fun. She was always silly and doin’ crazy stuff.”
Eddy, the fun-loving girl in the trio, was accepted by Mary Neese and her husband David as if she was one of their own. “Shelia didn’t even knock on the door when she came over, she just came on in.”
Shoaf, on the other hand, was the opposite of Eddy. Though she was well-liked and enjoyed being in school plays, she came from a strict Catholic family and idolized Eddy for her somewhat wild and free attitude.
While Shoaf and Neese enjoyed some of the freedom that Eddy enjoyed, they didn’t have that same freedom to the same extent, and that particular dynamic would eventually spell doom for Skylar Neese.
The Murder Of Skylar Neese
Thanks to the trio’s many social media posts, it ultimately became clear that Neese, Eddy, and Shoaf had underlying tensions with each other. Neese tweeted things like this May 31, 2012 post, “youre a twofaced bitch and obviously fucking stupid if you thought I wouldnt find out.”
Another tweet from that spring said, “too bad my friends are having lives without me.” It appeared to Neese as though Eddy and Shoaf were becoming closer friends without her.
“Shelia and Skylar were fighting a lot,” Daniel Hovatter, a classmate at UHS reported. “One time sophomore year, me and Rachel were at practice for Pride and Prejudice and Rachel had her phone up to her ear and she was laughing. She was like, ‘Listen to this.’ Shelia and Skylar were fighting, but Skylar didn’t know Shelia had put her on three-way calling and Rachel was listening in.”
The scenario was like something straight out of Mean Girls, but things were about to get a lot meaner.
Grainy security camera footage from Neese’s family apartment in the early morning of July 6 shows Skylar getting into a nondescript Sedan.
The following morning, Neese did not report for work — a first for the responsible teen. The Neeses knew their daughter didn’t run away because her cell phone charger, toothbrush, and toiletries were still in her room. They reported their daughter missing.
Later that day, Eddy called the Neeses. “She proceeded to tell me that her, Skylar, and Rachel had snuck out the night before and that they had driven around Star City, were getting high, and that the two girls had dropped her back off at the house,” Mary Neese recalled. “The story was they had dropped her off at the end of the road because she didn’t want to wake us up sneaking back in.”
That story held up for a little while — that is, until the best friends seemed to implicate themselves.
A Harrowing Investigation
Eddy claimed that she and Shoaf picked up Neese at 11 p.m. and dropped her back off before midnight. But the surveillance video said otherwise. The grainy footage showed Neese leaving her apartment at 12:30 a.m., the car pulling away at 12:35 a.m., and then never seen again.
Eddy and her mother helped to canvass the neighborhood for Neese on July 7. Meanwhile, Shoaf was off to Catholic summer camp for two weeks.
Rumors swirled that Neese went to a house party and overdosed on heroin. Corporal Ronnie Gaskins, one of the investigators in the case, said that people told him that the teenager attended a party and died. “People there panicked, and they disposed of the body.”
But Star City police officer Jessica Colebank’s instincts said otherwise. “Their stories were verbatim, the same. No one’s story is exactly the same unless it’s rehearsed. Everything in my gut was, ‘Shelia is acting wrong. Rachel is scared to death.'”
But with no legitimate cause to make an arrest yet, the police had to keep investigating and the Neeses had to endure an agonizing wait before the truth about their daughter would come out.
Fortunately, social media offered some clues as all three girls were very active on Twitter and Facebook. The afternoon before Skylar Neese disappeared, she tweeted, “sick of being at fucking home. thanks ‘friends’, love hanging out with you all too.” The day before, Neese posted, “you doing s*** like that is why I can NEVER completely trust you.”
It seemed the rift in the trio provided some solid evidence that perhaps Eddy and Shoaf had something to do with Neese’s disappearance.
Chris Berry, a state trooper assigned to the case in August 2012, always believed that any murderer could not conceal what they had done for very long. And in some cases, Berry had seen, the murderers would even brag about their deeds. He had a feeling that this was one of those cases and thus believed that Rachel Shoaf and Shelia Eddy would come to confess in time.
Berry created a fake online persona as an attractive teenage boy who attended West Virginia University in Morgantown and scoured Facebook and Twitter, linking up with the girls. Then, investigators could use this access to glean insight on the mental states of Eddy and Shoaf from their posts on social media.
Investigators observed that Eddy was perky while Shoaf was reserved and quiet online. Neither one of the girls hinted that they were upset about their best friend’s disappearance. Eddy tweeted about mundane things and even posted a photo of her and Shoaf together.
Some posts were odd, such as the one on Nov. 5, 2012, that said, “no one on this earth can handle me and Rachel if you think you can you’re wrong.”
Meanwhile, Eddy and Shoaf began hearing things on social media that made them nervous. Some people on Twitter outright accused them of having committing the murder and told that they would be caught — it was only a matter of time.
Authorities continually brought Eddy and Shoaf in for interviews. Over time, the two became more secluded from their other friends and relied more on each other.
Then Colebank realized that the car in the security footage belonged to Shelia Eddy.
Authorities cross-referenced surveillance footage from nearby businesses of that July night. They found the same car that picked up Skylar Neese near a convenience store in Blackstone, West Virginia, west of Star City and Morgantown. However, both Eddy and Shoaf had said they went east on the night of Neese’s disappearance. The girls were caught in a lie.
But while the evidence continued to point to Skylar Neese’s best friends as her killers, the cops still didn’t have enough to charge them. It would take a confession to finally close the case.
A Sickening Confession
The stress and strain of concealing their crime continued to take its toll on Rachel Shoaf and Shelia Eddy. On Dec. 28, 2012, a frantic parent called 911 in Monongalia County. “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.”
The caller was Patricia Shoaf, Rachel’s mother. In the background, Rachel Shoaf could be heard crying uncontrollably. “Give me the phone. No! No! This is over. This is over!” And then to the dispatcher, Patricia Shoaf said, “My husband’s trying to contain her. Please hurry.”
Rachel Shoaf was primed to confess and authorities picked her up. Soon, she told them the horrifying truth about the murder of Skylar Neese.
“We stabbed her,” Shoaf blurted out.
As she continued talking, the grim truth about the murder of Skylar Neese only became more and more clear.
As Shoaf told it, she and Eddy had planned the murder of Skylar Neese a month in advance. One day, they were in science class and they agreed that maybe they should kill her.
They planned on carrying out the murder just before Shoaf left for summer camp.
On the night of the murder, Shoaf grabbed a shovel from her dad’s house and Eddy took two knives from her mom’s kitchen. They also took with them cleaning supplies and a change of clothes.
When the two girls picked her up, Skylar Neese assumed they were just going to be driving around and having fun. Previously, the trio had driven to Brave, a town just over the state line Pennsylvania, to get high. And Shoaf and Eddy had indeed brought their own pipes for smoking weed — and knives.
Although it was scorching hot outside, Shoaf and Eddy wore hoodies to conceal the fact that they were hiding the knives. Unaware of why they were actually wearing hoodies, Skylar Neese thought nothing of it.
Once near the woods in Pennsylvania, where Neese thought they had gone to smoke, the two other girls got behind their victim.
“On three,” Shoaf said.
Then they pounced and started attacking her. Shoaf said that at one point during the attack, Neese got away but they stabbed her in the knee so she could not run very far again. Neese’s fate was sealed.
In her dying breaths, after being stabbed many times, Skylar Neese said: “Why?”
Authorities later asked Rachel Shoaf the same question, to which she simply said, “We didn’t like her.”
Justice For The Murder Of Skylar Neese
In early January 2013, Rachel Shoaf took investigators to the rural woods where she and Shelia Eddy had killed Skylar Neese. It was covered in snow and she didn’t remember the exact location.
They could not initially find the body, but due to Shoaf’s confession, authorities soon charged her with murder.
Then the authorities’ final break came a week later when they found the 16-year-old’s body, nearly unidentifiable, in the woods. It would not be until March 13 that a crime lab could officially confirm that the body was that of Skylar Neese.
Investigators matched blood samples in Eddy’s trunk to Neese’s DNA and she was arrested on May 1, 2013 in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant. She was charged with first-degree murder and she pled guilty in January 2014. She received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 15 years.
Shoaf, guilty of second-degree murder, received a 30-year sentence. It’s likely that she received a lighter sentence because she cooperated in bringing Eddy to justice, with both girls tried as adults.
David Neese, Skylar Neese’s dad, says that those two girls did not deserve leniency from the courts. “They’re both sickos, and they’re both exactly where they need to be: away from civilization, locked up like animals. Because that’s what they are, they’re animals.”
The mourning father occasionally visits a tree in the woods in Pennsylvania, decorated with photos of his only child, his beloved daughter, killed because of two jealous best friends.
“I wanted to take the horrible thing that happened here and try to turn it into something good — a place that people can come and remember Skylar and remember the good little girl that she was, and not the little beast that they treated her like.”
The Neese family also helped to pass Skylar’s Law which requires that the state issue Amber Alerts for all missing children even those not believed to be kidnapped. Although that may not have saved Skylar’s life, because she was killed before her parents realized she was missing, this new system in West Virginia may save some more lives through timely notices of missing children.
After this look at the murder of Skylar Neese, read about how a teenage girl named Sylvia Likens was brutally murdered by caretaker Gertrude Baniszewski and a group of neighborhood children. Then, discover another horrifying case of teenagers who killed their best friend in this look at the murder of Shonda Sharer.