By Marty Gordon

Natalie Keepers, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, was sentenced to 40 years in prison last year for her part in the murder of a Blacksburg teenager.  Monday, the Virginia Court of Appeals announced it would hear her appeal.

Keepers, along with David Eisenhauer, was charged in the 2016 death of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell. Keepers, who was charged with being an accessory before the fact of the first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to concealing Lovell’s body.

Police investigation into the crime revealed Eisenhauer, also a Virginia Tech student at the time, had started a romantic relationship with Lovell but wanted to break it off. According to the police, Eisenhauer lured the girl from her Blacksburg apartment. Police say that on Jan. 27, 2016, Einsenhauer and Keepers drove to a wooded area in Montgomery County where he stabbed Lovell to death. A short time later, Keepers and Eisenhauer moved Lovell’s body to a location in Surry County, N.C. The pair was seen on cameras at the Wytheville Walmart purchasing items used in the disposal of the body.

Montgomery County Judge Robert Turk sentenced Eisenhauer to 60 years for first-degree murder, 10 years for abduction and five years for concealing Lovell’s body with 25 to be suspended after Eisenhauer serves 50 years.

Upon questioning by police, Keepers said she helped to dispose of the body and told officers where to find the remains.

Keepers’ legal team filed the appeal on the basis that her statement to police should have never been allowed into the trial. In addition, the lawyers say two jurors in the case were biased toward their client.

Nicole Lovell’s family issued a statement after the appeals decision: “This appeal is demeaning to Nicole Lovell and our family. This case has drug our family in and out of courtrooms and has caused many heartaches that are unrepairable. We as a family thought that Natalie Keepers received a light sentence like her co-defendant. We ask for prayers and the continuing support for our family as they once again drag this long process out even more. All we want at this time is our time to grieve and to get back Nicole’s belongings.”