The Tragic Murder Of Skylar Neese

Skylar Neese was 16 years old when she disappeared in July 2012. She'd gotten home in the evening after finishing her shift at Wendy's. She kissed her parents goodnight, and that was the last time they saw her. The following morning, she was gone.

Skylar Neese was a thriving, lively, and sociable girl. An honor student at her high school, she was an avid reader and a loyal friend. Everyone who knew her thought she was a "bubbly" girl and a loyal friend. Her disappearance left her family and the authorities in a state of confusion. Had Skylar run away? Had she gotten into trouble? What had happened to her?

It wasn't until months later, when Sheila Eddy and Rachel Shoaf, two of Skylar's closest friends, came clean, that the horrible truth came to light. This is the story of the tragic murder of Skylar Neese and the shocking revelations that appalled the nation.

Skylar Neese disappeared from her home in West Virginia

In July 2012, Skylar Neese disappeared from her home in Star City, West Virginia. She was 16 years old. After she finished her shift at Wendy's on the night of July 5, she went home and kissed her parents goodnight for the last time. When her parents woke up the following morning, Skylar was gone. "She has a lot of friends and is big into social networks but has not been online since she disappeared. There has been no bank activity and her cell phone has not been turned on," a family member told the Huffington Post.

After Skylar went missing, the police started investigating. According to the Huffington Post, surveillance video from a camera placed in the apartment complex showed that she climbed out a window at bit after midnight on July 6 and got into a sedan. The friend who picked her up was interviewed and told the authorities that she dropped Skylar off an hour later, even though there is no footage of the girl returning home.

At the beginning, the police thought it could have been a runaway case, but her parents found that to be unlikely. "Her contact lenses were still in her bedroom," said her mother Mary Neese, "Everything that a girl would take, it was there — toothbrush, hairbrush. She took her cell phone, but not her charger," per Elle. As time went by and Skylar failed to appear, her family and friends started to fear the worst.

Skylar's remains were found six months later in Pennsylvania

According to CBS News, Skylar Neese's remains were found on January 16, 2013, in a remote rural area in Western Pennsylvania and were identified as those of the missing teenage girl several weeks later. Skylar would have turned 17 on February 10. Sadly, instead of celebrating, on that day, her family lit candles and held a vigil to honor her memory.

Shortly after Skylar's disappearance, the FBI joined the investigation and started to interview her schoolmates. They questioned Sheila Eddy, one of her friends, who picked up Skylar and allegedly dropped her off the night she disappeared. "The girl said Skylar was insistent that she be dropped off down the street so her friend's car did not wake anyone," Neese's cousin told the Huffington Post. But something didn't feel right. Skylar's last tweet, from the night before she went missing, read: "you doing sh*t like that is why I will NEVER completely trust you."

Skylar Neese was a "bubbly person"

Everyone who knew Skylar said that the 16-year-old girl was a successful, sociable, and active teenager. "She had a 4.0 grade point average, a part-time job at a fast food restaurant and an active social life," ABC News reports. An honor student at Morgantown's University High School, she was described as a "bubbly person" by her family and friends in Star City, West Virginia. "She was also very loyal to her friends, the people she thought was her friends," said her father David Neese.

Skylar was an excellent student, and she loved school. She also loved to read. According to her mother Mary Neese, "She devoured the Twilight books. She was just getting into the classics. She loved Great Expectation," per Elle. She never missed a day in school.

When her friends and family learned about her death, they were devastated. Mary and David Neese had just lost their only child. "Our whole world is gone. We lived for that girl. We did everything in the world for that girl, and now she's gone," said David Neese in an official statement to the press (via the Huffington Post).

Skylar Neese's best friend confessed to the murder

As reported by CBS News, On January 3, 2013, Rachel Shoaf (pictured left above), one of Skylar Neese's "best friends," admitted to planning and carrying out the murder with Sheila Eddy (center above), also a friend of Skylar. This was, per CBS News, "a revelation that shocked even police." In a secret hearing, the girl confessed that she and Eddy had planned and carried out the murder together. Rachel Shoaf was the one who took the police to the remote place in the woods where they had buried Skylar.

"Eddy allegedly lured Neese out of her family's apartment in the middle of the night, stabbing her to death at an agreed-upon moment and hid her body under branches in a Pennsylvania township about 30 miles away from her house," CBS News reports. The news left Skylar's family appalled. According to Skylar's father, Rachel Shoaf and Sheila Eddy were Skylar's best friends, and she loved them. "And they turn on her and count down — 3, 2, 1 — and stab her? I mean, what kind of sickness is that?" asked David Neese, via The Christian Science Monitor.

Rachel Shoaf and Sheila Eddy plead guilty

When Rachel Shoaf pleaded guilty in 2013, Kelly Kerns, a close family friend who was effectively Rachel's aunt, couldn't believe that the girl she had helped raise was capable of committing such a horrible crime. "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 told ABC News. She also said that the Rachel, Sheila, and Skylar were "inseparable."

And while Kerns admits that she had noticed a change in Rachel's behavior in the months before the murder, she was still shocked. "With all of the potential and morals, I don't even get where this came from," she told ABC News. After she pleaded guilty, Shoaf's family released a public statement: "We are truly sorry for the pain that she has caused the Neese family, and we know her actions are unforgivable and inexcusable," per the Charleston Daily Mail

In 2014, nearly a year after Shoaf did so, Sheila Eddy also pleaded guilty to murdering Skylar. Sheila and Skylar had been best friends since they were eight years old. "Shelia didn't even knock on the door when she came over, she just came on in," said David Neese, per Elle.

Rachel and Sheila killed Skylar because "they didn't like her"

Skylar Neese and Sheila Eddy had known each other since they were eight years old and attended the same high school. Sheila was the daughter of divorced parents, and she had a wild personality. "She was always silly and doin' crazy stuff," recalls Mary Neese, Skylar's mother, per Elle.

Rachel Shoaf was originally friends with Sheila and had transferred to the girls' school later. She was also the daughter of divorced parents and came from a religious family. In the course of the school year, the three girls became best friends. According to ABC News, "the then-16-year-olds were pretty and sociable, taking selfies and spending time together."

When Skylar first disappeared that July night in 2012, the police thought it was a runaway case, and there were rumors that Skylar might have overdosed on heroin. That was until Jessica Colebank, who was working on the case at the time, started having suspicions about one of the girls. When she questioned Sheila Eddy for the first time, Eddy was "[just completely] blank on emotions and there was absolutely nothing. It was like iced over," Coleman told newspapers (via ABC News).

It wasn't until later that the truth came to the surface. When police officers asked Rachel, "Why did you guys kill Skylar?" her answer was, "We just didn't like her."

After the murder, Sheila Eddy kept tweeting like nothing had happened

After murdering Skylar with the help of her friend Rachel Shoaf, Sheila Eddy "remained active on Twitter, posting regularly about her thoughts and day-to-day activities as authorities searched for her "missing" friend," ABC News reports. She even pretended to feel grief over her friend's loss after her death. "Rest easy Skylar, you'll ALWAYS be my best friend," Eddy posted, along with photos of herself and Skylar, on March 13, 2013, the day the authorities officially announced that the human remains found in the Pennsylvania woods in January belonged to Skylar.

Even after Rachel Shoaf, following a mental breakdown, decided to turn herself in, Sheila Eddy had been seemingly unfazed and went on tweeting about staying home to watch her favorite TV shows. But perhaps the most disturbing post is Sheila Eddy's tweet on March 30, 2013. "[W]e really did go on three," she posted, apparently referring to the fact that the two girls had planned to stab Skylar Neese at the count of three.

Sheila Eddy was arrested outside of a restaurant on May 1, 2013, and charged with first-degree murder, ABC News reports.

Skylar Neese's tweets the day before she died

Perhaps the most controversial aspect about the tragic death of Skylar Neese is the role Twitter played in the life of the three girls. According to Elle, all of them were very active on the social media platform, which they used to communicate with each other. Journalist Holly Millea states that lack of in-person interaction might hinder a child's development. "Empathy develops when we receive cues from in-person interaction — you say something mean to someone, you see her cry, you feel bad. Technology can obstruct empathy's development and foster detachment," writes Millea.

On July 5, the night before she was murdered, after leaving her job at Wendy's, Skylar tweeted: "you doing sh*t like that is why I will NEVER completely trust you." It's unclear what happened between the girls in the days that led to Skylar's murder, but it's likely that they had gotten into a fight. According to a classmate, in the last months of their friendship, Sheila and Skylar were "fighting a lot," Elle reports.

Many have speculated on the role of Twitter and social media in the teenagers' life. "There is 100 percent a lack of empathy on the Internet. You don't have to deal with the natural consequences of your behavior," Jamie Howard, PhD, a clinical psychologist at New York's Child Mind Institute, stated to Elle.

Skylar's father said Sheila Eddy was like family to them

After everything was said and done, the community of Star City struggled with the ugly truth. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Sheila Eddy was a close friend of Skylar, often went to their home, and she like "a second daughter" to Neese's parents. "She walked in the door when she came here. She didn't even knock. She was like our daughter," Dave Neese (pictured) said.

Mary Neese, Skylar's mother, also thought of the girl as her daughter's best friend. "They were inseparable at that point. Either she was at our house or Skylar was at her house," she told The Christian Science Monitor. According to Mary, aside from a speeding ticket or breaking curfew, the girls had never done anything alarming when they were together. When Rachel and Sheila finally confessed, it came as a shock to them both.

No explanation or punishment can bring peace to Skylar's parents. "I can't imagine what she was thinking the night this happened. Why? You know? Same thing everybody else is asking. Why? Why would you kill me?" asked David Neese.

Sheila Eddy and Rachel Shoaf are sentenced

According to CBS News, after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, Sheila Eddy was sentenced to life in prison (albeit with the chance for parole) on January 27, 2014. On February 26, Rachel Shoaf was sentenced to 30 years in prison after having pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May 2013, per CBS News, bringing an end to the case that had shocked the community and the entire nation.

While Eddy didn't apologize and didn't address the court, Shoaf was reported saying: "The person that did that was not the real me ... I became scared, caught up in something that I did not want to do." Skylar's family found the fact that Eddy didn't offer an apology to be disrespectful, and when asked to comment on Shoaf's statement, David Neese simply said, "She can take her apologies and sit on them."

Justice won't bring Skylar Neese back, as far as her parents are concerned. "We're no longer a family. You can look into the eyes of those who were responsible but you can never know what they heard as they were taking her life," said David Neese shortly after Eddy was sentenced.

Skylar Neese's death helped change the law

According to CBS News, when Skylar first disappeared, an Amber Alert wasn't issued in West Virginia because the police weren't sure she had been abducted and thought she might have run away. After her case came to public attention, a bill was passed to change West Virginia state law in order to facilitate and speed up police intervention. "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," CBS News reports.

The new law came to be known as "Skylar's Law." When a child goes missing, every minute can save a life. "We need to be out there right away and be working to search for whatever child might be missing," said Delegate Charlene Marshall, who championed the law, WPXI reports.

An Amber Alert probably wouldn't have saved Skylar. But, as David Neese stated, the hope is that "It may help someone else down the road," per WPXI.

Rachel Shoaf and Sheila Eddy are still in jail

According to Heavy, Rachel Shoaf and Sheila Eddy are currently serving their sentence at West Virginia's Lakin Correctional Center. Today, they're 25 years old and are waiting for the time they'll be able to ask for a reduction of their sentence. "Shoaf will be eligible for parole in 2024, while Eddy will be eligible for parole in 2029," Heavy reports.

Aside from gathering nationwide media attention, the murder of Skylar Neese and the events surrounding it have been the subjects of several books and TV shows. "I don't think there was justice in this case. I think that they got the best they could get all things considered, but you can't have justice once a teenager's dead," said journalist Daleen Berry, author of the 2014 book Pretty Little Killers: The Truth Behind the Savage Murder of Skylar Neese, US News reports.

While Sheila Eddy hasn't been active on her Twitter account since the day before she was arrested, her feed is still visible to the public. One of her tweets echoes in the tragic story of the murder of Skylar Neese. "No one on this earth can handle me and Rachel if you think you can you're wrong," posted Sheila Eddy in November 2012, per Heavy.