One night in the summer of 2012, two West Virginia teenagers lured their best friend from her home near Morgantown.
They hid kitchen knives under their clothes, brought a shovel and a change of clothes, and led their friend to a remote location in the woods of Wayne, Greene County in Pennsylvania.
There, Monongalia County prosecutor Marcia Ashdown said, they stabbed her repeatedly as she tried to fight back and run away. And when she was finally dead, they covered her body with branches and left.
"They stood over her until her last breath," Ms. Ashdown said. "They changed to clean, unbloody clothing and returned to their lives."
Shelia Eddy, 18, the second young woman accused in the killing of 16-year-old Skylar Neese of Star City, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Friday, less than a week before her trial was scheduled to start in Monongalia County Circuit Court.
Judge Russell M. Clawges Jr. sentenced Eddy to life in prison but said she will be eligible for parole after 15 years. Eddy, who cried periodically in court, agreed to the plea but gave no explanation for the crime that shocked the small town of Star City, about 70 miles south of Pittsburgh, and attracted national attention.
"It's just amazing," police Chief Vic Propst said last week. "I've been in law enforcement for 28 years, and I've never seen anything so cold-blooded."
Eddy's co-defendant, Rachel Shoaf, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May and is awaiting sentencing.
Before Eddy's sentencing, Skylar Neese's father read a victim impact statement to the court, his voice breaking throughout.
"You can see the faces of the killer, but you can't see Skylar's face," he said.
Authorities, struggling to find a motive, have said the pair killed Skylar, a honors student at University High School in Morgantown, because they didn't want to be friends with her anymore. Eddy and Skylar had been friends since grade school, Ms. Ashdown said, and Skylar's mother said Eddy had even helped hand out fliers in their neighborhood when they thought their daughter was missing.
Before the plot, Shoaf and Eddy started to distance themselves from Skylar, feeling their friendship was ending. They worried if that happened, Ms. Ashdown said, Skylar would "divulge their secrets."
So the girls started discussing methods of "getting rid" of Skylar, Ms. Ashdown said.
Then in early 2013, Shoaf came forward and showed investigators where they could find Skylar's body.
Her aunt, Carol Michaud, said Eddy robbed her sister of her daughter's prom, graduation and wedding. She said Eddy consoled the family during the months they spent looking for Skylar -- all while knowing she was responsible for her death.
"She came and she acted as if she knew nothing," she said. "She ... stayed and comforted us and swore she had no idea what was going on."
The case prompted the West Virginia Legislature to pass Skylar's Law. Under it, even when authorities suspect a child is a runaway, as happened in Skylar's case, the information is turned over to Amber Alert officials.
Molly Born: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1944. The Associated Press contributed. First Published January 24, 2014 3:58 PM