It was Monday the 5th of March, 1991, when two boys were reported missing in Virginia Beach. 9-year-old Daniel Geier and 7-year-old Christopher ‘Scot’ Weaver were friends and neighbours living at the Wadsworth Homes complex, which is an apartment complex of the U.S. Navy Amphibious Base. They had gone out that afternoon on their bikes, and had last been seen at a grocery store at around 5:30PM.
That evening, the boys never returned home. Their parents first of all set off searching on foot, checking all of the areas that the boys would typically play. However, there was no sign of Daniel or Scot. There was woodland nearby and a lake, but the boys were told not to go here by their parents. Scot’s grandmother commented: “I hope to God they didn’t go where they went last week, over to the lake…”1
The two families set off to the woodland and lake armed with flashlights, but hampered by the dark, they returned home. At around 7:40PM, police were called and the boys were reported missing. The community pulled together to assist in the search, and they were joined by military personnel and the American Red Cross.2
Less than 24 hours later, searchers were focusing their attention on woodland near Birdneck Lake. Near the lake, volunteers found one of the boys’ bikes. One wheel on the bike had been bent. Police divers were brought to the scene to scan the lake, and the second bike was found in the water. The search continued, with scores of volunteers scouring the woodland in search of the boys.
James McKinsey, one of the volunteers, was searching the woodland when he spotted a mound of leaves and debris. He could see a hand protruding out from underneath. “I stepped up on a log to stay out of the marshy area,” he said. “I turned back to wait for my wife and just happened to look down and see a hand.”
He moved away the leaves and debris and recoiled in horror as he saw the bodies of Daniel and Scot. They were lying side by side and there were large gaping wounds to the boys’ necks. Their throats had been slashed with so much force that Scot was almost decapitated. An autopsy would confirm that neither boy had been sexually assaulted. There was also no evidence of a struggle at the spot where they were found, indicating they had been killed elsewhere.3
The missing person investigation quickly transformed into a murder investigation, and news of the gruesome murders spread like wildfire.
The woodland surrounding Birdneck Lake was a popular haunt for children to ride their bikes and play. They all referred to the woodland as “our playground” – there were skateboard ramps, forts and treehouses dotted throughout the woodland. As for the lake, children loved searching for turtles and swimming. But still, a lot of the parents of the children had forbidden them from going into the woodland.4
Local parents had heard stories from their children about a teenage boy who often hung out in the woodland. This unknown youth reportedly drank in the woodland and smoked cigarettes. According to some children, they had seen him spray painting pentagrams on trees and he sometimes even chased the younger children. Most of the time, however, he played with the children, and a lot of them looked at him like something of a big brother, albeit a bit strange.5
Investigators wanted to identify this teenage boy. He wasn’t a suspect in the murders, but he was a person of interest in the case, and could potentially provide some information. With the investigation underway, classmates of 16-year-old Shawn Novak listened intently as he bragged that he had found the bodies. Classmates didn’t think much of it. Novak had often said things and di things to get attention. According to one of his classmates, he had bragged about killing animals in the past and often carried around animal bones.6
Novak’s claims quickly caught the attention of investigators. They made contact with James, the man who had found the bodies, and showed him photographs of six teenagers, one of whom was Novak. James denied that he was there when he found the two bodies.7 According to local children, Novak was the teenager who often hung out in the woodland.
Novak was brought down to the police station to be questioned. He told them that Daniel was a Kender, a dwarf like green creature with pointy ears. Novak was obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons, and he had created something of a fantasy life in the woodland. He often hung out with a group of young children in the woodland, and he referred to them all as Kender.8
On the afternoon of the murders, Novak was hanging out in the woodland like normal when Daniel and Scot appeared. Novak had played with the boys in the past.
According to Novak, Daniel repeatedly asked him if he could see his knife. He explained that he lifted the knife from his pocket “and I grabbed him by the back of his shirt, and I dragged him back and I stabbed him four times and I slashed him too.”9
He continued: “It’s a Buck knife with a bone handle. . . Daniel kept bugging me about wanting to see my knife. . . and Daniel had got out my knife and I freaked out. . . And then Scot began to scream. . . I wasn’t mad. I was really scared because I had cut him from the ear.”10
Novak said that after the murders, he noticed that he was covered in blood. He washed his knife and hands in a puddle in the woodland.11
On Saturday, Novak was arrested and charged with capital murder. Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Humphreys announced that he was seeking to prosecute him as an adult. If convicted as an adult, that meant that Novak could be facing a sentence of life in prison or capital punishment.
It was ultimately decided that Novak would be standing trial as an adult. The trial began in March of 1992, and Novak’s defence team would argue that he was legally insane. They put forward the suggestion he was possessed by the “malevolent side of his dual personality” when he committed the murders. They called on a doctor who testified that Novak was suffering from schizophrenia and felt as though he was watching the murders from above, looking down.
The prosecution on the other hand rejected this. They had their own witnesses that testified there was no sign of mental illness in Novak. It was their suggestion that Novak had killed Daniel and Scot in cold blood. Evidence was also presented from an eyewitness who had seen Novak with Daniel and Scot just moments before they were killed.12
The jury ultimately sided with the prosecution and after deliberating for just 90 minutes, they found Shawn Novak guilty of capital murder. Circuit Judge John K. Moore ultimately sentenced Novak to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years. In handing down the sentence, he said: “This crime was primarily the product of a very young, very immature and very disturbed man.”13
Novak had his first shot at parole in 2012 when he was 37-years-old. He was denied parole.
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5 March, 1991 – “Bikes Found”
- The Anniston Star, 6 March, 1991 – “Youth, Friend Found Dead”
- The Virginian-Pilot, 7 March, 1991 – “Tips in Killings of 2 Boys Pour In”
- The Virginian-Pilot, 6 March, 1991 – “Slain Boys’ Throats Slashed”
- Daily Press, 11 March, 1991 – “Murder Suspect Called Non-Violent but Odd”
- Richmonth Times-Dispatch, 11 March, 1991 – “Youth Allegedly Said he Found Bodies”
- The Virginian-Pilot, 11 March, 1991 – “Suspect in Boys’ Killing Boasted”
- The Virginian-Pilot, 17 March, 1991 – “Fantasy Turns to Nightmare”
- The Virginian-Pilot, 4 February, 1992 – “Police Lied to Get Novak’s Confession”
- The Virginian-Pilot, 26 September, 1993 – “For Police, Confessions Result of Delicate Strategy”
- The Virginian-Pilot, 14 March, 1991 – “Novak Admitted Killing Boys”
- Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5 March, 1992 – “Teen Was Possessed”
- The Virginian-Pilot, 5 May, 1992 – “Novak Gets Life in Killings”