16-year-old Skylar Neese had a 4.0 GPA, a part-time job at Wendy’s and an active social life. Skylar loved her dog, Leeloo, and playing the flute. She dreamed of becoming a criminal lawyer and settling down and starting a family of her own. “She had the cutest little laugh. She was an adorable little thing. She was always laughing and joking and she liked to pull pranks on people,” recalled Skylar’s aunt, Carol Michaud.1
Her two best friends were Rachel Shoaf and Shelia Eddy . All three girls attended University High School in Morgantown, West Virginia, and “you barely ever saw one of them by themselves,” according to another friend. They aptly nicknamed themselves “The Three Mustakteers.” Skylar had been friends with Shelia since they were young children but the duo became a trio in high school when they met Rachel. Skylar’s father said that Skylar’s two friends “walked in when they came here” and that they “didn’t even knock.” That’s how close the girls were; Skylar’s parents considered them family. Scrolling through their active social media accounts, one could get a glimpse into their world. Like most teenage girls, they took countless photographs together and shared private jokes on one another’s pages. When they weren’t hanging out together, they were chatting and messaging online.
One night during a sleepover, Skylar witnessed Rachel and Shelia having sex. She would later write about this event in her diary and relay it to several friends. Feeling as though Skylar was “in the way” of their relationship and becoming bored of her being around, Rachel and Shelia decided they would kill Skylar.
On the 6th of July, 2012, Skylar disappeared. She had come home from work and kissed both of her parents goodnight before retreating to bed. Later that night at around 12AM, Skylar was spotted on surveillance footage outside her apartment. She was sneaking out of her bedroom window and jumping into an awaiting car. When she didn’t return that night or show up for work the following day, Skylar’s father, David, called the police. “I have a sixteen-year-old daughter, she has not been home, hasn’t went to work… I am scared to death” he said to the 911 operator.2 Rachel initially denied that she had seen Skylar that night but she eventually confided in Skylar’s mother, Mary, that she and Shelia had picked Skylar up from her house. She said the trio went out for a drive before dropping Skylar off about two blocks from her house so that her parents wouldn’t hear her sneaking back in. They began to question whether somebody unidentified could have abducted the teenage girl as she walked the short distance home.
After Skylar was reported missing, a six-month long search ensued.
Many (police included) theorised that Skylar had ran away and was willingly staying away. Her mother, Mary, said that it could be true but it didn’t add up. “If she’s hiding, she’s doing a very good job of it… and why? She had no reason to leave.”3 Moreover, Skylar didn’t take her contact lenses, her phone charger or any makeup or toiletries. Cell phone analysis determined that her cell phone hadn’t been used since the disappearance, neither had her credit card. Wherever she was, evidence in her bedroom showed that she clearly intended on returning home. It wouldn’t be until two months into her disappearance that the West Virginia State Police and the finally FBI became involved. Rachel and Shelia rallied around the investigation, acting as the grieving best friends. The two girls assisted in the search and comforted Mary and David. They even posted several selfies with Skylar on social media and begged for her safe return knowing all too well that she wouldn’t be returning home. “All I want is for my best-friend to come home… I miss you and love you,” begged Shelia in one Twitter post. David would even respond to some of the seemingly heartfelt messages, telling Sheila to “keep strong.” In hindsight, the tweets and Facebook posts are particularly disturbing.
On the 16th of January, 2013, Rachel confessed that she and Shelia had murdered Skylar.
They had been questioned several times by investigators and eventually, Rachel confessed. As police started to suspect that they were involved or at least knew more than they were letting on, Mary defended them countless times. “I kept saying, ‘No. You guys, they are having as hard a time with this as we are.’” She led investigators to Skylar’s body along a rural road in Wayne Township. She had been brutally stabbed to death. Rachel confessed that she and Shelia had picked up Skylar in Shelia’s car and drove to a remote spot on a gravel road, just across a bridge and over the railroad tracks from the unincorporated West Virginia community of Macdale. They had brought along two knives which they had wrapped up in towels. As the trio sat around and chatted, Rachel and Shelia counted down to three and then started to violently stab Skylar. She was stabbed in the neck and back. She had attempted to break free but couldn’t get away.
Rachel and Shelia had brought along a shovel and had planned on burying Skylar’s body. The duo were not strong enough to break the ground so they dragged her lifeless body 15 feet from the road and hid her under tree branches where she remained unfound for six months. Before Skylar died, she uttered the words “why?” When Rachel confessed to the murder, she claimed “they didn’t want to be friends with Skylar anymore.” The cold calculation and violence of the plot shocked the entire community. “What was going through my baby’s head?” David Neese wonders. “I can’t imagine what she was thinking the night this happened. Why? You know?”4
In the days leading up to the murder, Skylar’s Twitter account indicated that something had gone awry. Two days before her murder, she tweeted: “it really doesn’t take much to piss me off” and “sick of being fucking home. Thanks “friends,” love hanging out with you all too.” Then just the day before her slaying, she tweeted: “you doing shit like that is why I can NEVER completely trust you.”
Shelia Eddy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. She had taken a plea bargain in which prosecutors dropped the kidnapping charge as well as two charges of conspiracy. She will be eligible for parole in 2028. Rachel Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 to 30 years. She will be eligible for parole in 2023. When Rachel apologised to Skylar’s family during her sentencing phase, her father replied: “You can never say you’re sorry to me or my wife, because you’re not. There will never be closure for us as far as you two are concerned. You defied our trust. We treated you with Skylar’s life and this is how you treat us.”
Rachel and Sheila are both incarcerated in the Lanin Correction Central in West Columbia.
Mary and David Neese, Skylar’s parents, continue to share her story in the hopes that Skylar’s Law expands to other states.
Skylar’s Law is a West Virginia addition to the Amber Alert in which the Amber Alert coordinator determines whether an Amber Alert should be issued or not as opposed to law enforcement agencies. When Skylar disappeared, she was initially considered to be a runaway and therefore did not fit the criteria for an Amber Alert. The criteria for an Amber Alert is: a child is believed to have been abducted, is under 18, may be in danger of death or serious injury and there is sufficient evidence to indicate that an Amber Alert would be helpful in locating the missing child. “Instead of Skylar having a negative thing on her like two people killed her, it’s more like ‘hey, there is Skylar’s Law, it’s going to save people now,” Dave Neese said. “Nobody else can hurt the way she hurt…”5
- The Dominion Post, 2 July, 2017 – “Skylar’s Story”
- Dateline NBC, 31 May, 2014 – “Details of the Skylar Neese Murder Case”
- The Dominion Post, 9 August, 2012 – “Teen from Star City Still Missing”
- Mineral Daily News-Tribune, 27 June, 2013 – “Skylar Neese Slaying”
- The Dominion Post, 6 July, 2017 – “Skylar’s Law Protects Others”