Day two of Keepers trial reveals never before seen video, audio evidence

Nearly two hours of interrogation video entered into evidence

By Rachel Lucas - Anchor / Reporter, Heather Butterworth - Digital Content Producer

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. - 5 p.m. update: 

Nearly two hours of never before publicly seen interrogation video was aired in the courtroom Tuesday. Defense attorney Kris Olin played a continuous audio recording that lasted approximately 80 minutes. The audio clip perhaps gave listeners a perspective on Keepers' mental and emotional state. Although there are conflicting accounts given by Keepers, she can be heard emotionally telling investigators details about Eisenhauer's murder plot.

Keepers repeatedly told investigators, however, that she was not there while Lovell was murdered. She even went on to say she didn't believe Eisenhauer was capable of murder. Despite investigators insisting there was more to her story, especially given the recounted details of the murder she gave them, she denied ever being there.

"I knew in my heart that David couldn't do it," Keepers said. "But in my head, I knew he wanted to."

Keepers even told investigators that Eisenhauer said her job was to go to her Virginia Tech dorm room to sleep and forget the night.

While answering investigators questions, Keepers frequently went off on what Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Patrick Jensen referred to as "tangents." At one point in time Keepers even recalled how her boyfriend at the time was part of "high-level" security black-ops missions, tasked with saving the country from war. She later said the he often manipulated her like Eisenhauer manipulated Lovell.

"I told him to promise that he would have never manipulated me. But he did," Keepers said.

Through discussions Keepers had with investigators, Keepers described her relationship with Eisenhauer as a first. She said that she often was a victim of bullying and never really had a friend. Investigators insisted that she enjoyed being confided in by someone she admired.

“He talked about killing her and I played along with his fantasy. I don’t even know why. He made me feel like I was being a part of something special,” said Keepers in an audio recording played in court.

"He made me feel like I was a part of some secret club that he and I were only a part of. It was the best club in the world. I finally had a best friend that I never had before," Keepers said in audio.

Keepers kept her head down during the video, at times wiping her eyes, appearing to be crying.


2 p.m. update:

The defense entered into evidence interrogation video they previously filed a motion to keep out of court.

The jury was asked to leave while Judge Robert Turk discussed the matter with attorneys.

Although Turk previously ruled that video would not be allowed in court on behalf of the defense's motion because it related to Keeper's concealing of a body charge she already pleaded guilty to, he said if the defense wanted to enter it back into the court, that it was their discretion to do so.

In one clip of the video, when Detective Ryan Hite of the Blacksburg Police Department  asked Natalie Keepers to tell the truth about what was happening, she answered, "He {Eisenhauer} forced me to."

In a later played audio clip played to the jury, Hite can be heard giving Keepers a letter with her Miranda rights.

Hite told Keepers that they weren't there to "arrest her or charge her or anything like that" but that she was in police custody.

"It's less glamorous than seen on TV," Hite told her in the video.

Defense attorney Kris Olin began questioning Hite about if this was "watering down her Miranda rights."

Olin then asked Hite if he remembered her asking to call her parents or boyfriend during the interrogation.

"I don't recall," Hite said.

"Is it fair to say that you wanted to limit her outside access?" Olin asked.

"I think it's fair to say we wanted to limit outside distractions," Hite said.


1:30 p.m. update:

Defense attorney Kris Olin began his cross-examination Detective Ryan Hite of the Blacksburg Police Department.

When questioned by Olin about the interrogation videos, Hite testified that Keepers was questioned on and off for about 28 hours over a 35-hour period beginning 9:45 a.m. Jan 30, 2016.

"Did you tell her she was free to leave?" Olin asked Hite.

"I don't know that we used that exact terminology," Hite answered.

According to testimony, Keepers was not read her Miranda rights until the second day of questioning.

Hite said they did not read her her rights because she was only an alibi witness and "someone they were trying to see if she had information about Eisenhauer and Nicole Lovell."

The defense has previously argued that Keepers was not properly Mirandized during her talks with police.

"Did you ever imply you had evidence you didn't have to Natalie?" Olin asked Hite.

"It's possible," Hite answered.


Noon update:

Never-before-seen video and audio clips of Natalie Keepers interrogation video with police taken on Jan. 30 and 31, 2016 were shown to the jury Tuesday.

The video and audio evidence was highly controversial in the case as the defense tried multiple times in previous motions outside of the trial to keep a jury from ever seeing or hearing them.

Keepers did not request to have a lawyer present during her talks with police. 

During the first video clip, Keepers described the relationship David Eisenhauer had with 13-year-old Nicole Lovell. She told Detective Ryan Hite with the Blacksburg Police Department that Eisenhauer and Lovell had "made out" and eluded to some type of sexual relationship. She later told Hite that Eisenhauer and Lovell woke up the next morning after a party in a ditch. Eisenhauer had blacked out, and had not remembered exactly what had happened between the two.

Hite testified that over the 27.5-hour period of conversations they had with Keepers, that her story had changed, and she eventually gave more and more information to police.  She eventually told police that Eisenhauer had described in detail how he planned to murder Lovell, but said over the course of their conversations that she didn't think he would actually kill her. At one point in the video, she described to police where Eisenhauer told her he was going to kill Lovell.

"He drove by the crime scene...I helped him choose the spot," Keepers told investigators in the video.

"He would say he was going to off her, that he would kill the bitch, kill her," Keepers said in the video.

"He said he was going to take her for a walk....then off her." Keepers later described herself as a "trampoline," saying that Eisenhauer was constantly bouncing ideas of how to kill her off of her. "The outline of the plan was his, and he would bounce ideas off of me," Keepers said in the video. 

Keepers became emotional during court while listening to parts of her audio recordings with police, wiping her eyes as her other hand covered her face. 


11 a.m. update:

Detective Ryan Hite with the Blacksburg Police Department was called to testify about his role in the investigation. Shortly after Nicole Lovell was found dead, he was assigned to find and question Natalie Keepers.

He testified that when David Eisenhauer was first arrested, he used Keepers as his alibi. Keepers was found at her boyfriend's apartment in Blacksburg. He testified that Keepers voluntarily went with police.

A short clip of the 27.5-hour interrogation was shown in court in which Keepers spoke briefly about Eisenhauer and his relationship with Lovell. She said they met at a party and woke up in a ditch together the next morning.

"He was freaking out over it. I can't believe she wasn't 15. I can't believe she would lie about that," Keepers said in the video.


10 am update:

Opening statements began Tuesday morning with Commonwealth Attorney Mary Pettitt telling the jury about the night Nicole Lovell went missing.

She described the 13-year-old girl as a self-conscious teenager who had battled serious health conditions, including a liver transplant and scar on her throat. Pettitt walked the jury through Eisenhauer's relationship with Lovell and the way he murdered the young girl that said she was in love with him.

"Lovell became a problem for him," Pettitt said, referring to the relationship with a minor that Eisenhauer, detailed in text messages to friends and Keepers, was looking to cover up with murder.

Pettitt then told the jury that Keepers helped plan that murder.

"How do we know? She told us," Pettitt said. Pettitt briefly detailed that Keepers confessed during an interrogation to helping plan the murder. Pettitt explained that Keepers told police, "He made me feel as if I was being part of something special."

Keepers' defense attorney John Robertson followed Pettitt's opening statement with a different view of how Lovell's murder played out, telling the jury they hadn't heard the entire story in the media.

"You will hear what Keepers told police in its entirety and in its context," Robertson promised.

He said Keepers was interrogated by police for 27 1/2 hours after voluntarily agreeing to meet with them to help in the case. Robertson said he has an expert witness that will testify that Keepers is not like an "average person" and suffers from a disorder. He explained that a person with such disorders would not do well under such a lengthy interrogation by investigators. Robertson said Keepers thought she was playing out a fantasy with Eisenhauer, that she never actually intended to kill Lovell. 

"She doubted that Eisenhauer would even do it," Robertson told the court. "She finally had a friend."

Tammy Weeks-Dowdy, the mother of Nicole Lovell was the first to testify in the case. Weeks-Dowdy recounted the last night she unknowingly saw her daughter alive. Her testimony was used to establish by the Commonwealth that Lovell was in fact, murdered. She became emotional after having to look at autopsy photos of her 13-year-old daughter once more to verify it was her.

The Commonwealth's medical examiner Dr. Gayle Suzuki was later called to the witness stand. Suzuki performed the autopsy on Lovell. She testified that Lovell was still alive when her neck was broken by blunt force trauma, but was ultimately killed by a stab wound to the neck.


Natalie Keepers is set to be in court again Tuesday.

Keepers is the former Virginia Tech student who is accused of helping David Eisenhauer kill 13-year-old Nicole Lovell in 2016. 

On Monday, a jury of nine men and five women were seated. 

Tuesday, we're expecting to hear opening statements from the defense and Commonwealth. Then evidence will be presented. 

Tammy Weeks, the mother of Lovell, will likely testify Tuesday. 

Last month, Keepers pleaded guilty to the less serious of the two charges she's facing. Her attorneys hope that by pleading guilty to concealing Lovell's body, evidence can be tossed out from Keepers' other charge, accessory before the fact of murder. 

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