West Virginia teen gets 30 years in prison for her role in friend's stabbing death

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They lived their lives through Twitter -- their social media posts taking center stage for the past 18 months, splattered across the Internet like the pages of a diary suddenly violated, with the minutiae of their lives playing out for all to see.

It was amid this backdrop, where every hurt -- real or imagined -- was laid bare, where pot smoking and sneaking out of windows to joyride was a mundane occurrence, that two teenage girls kept the darkest, most extraordinary secret.

They had killed their best friend.

And in a court in Monongalia County, W.Va., on Wednesday, the last chapter of their sordid saga played out.

That's where Circuit Court Judge Russell Clawges sentenced Rachel Shoaf, 17, to 30 years in prison for the death of 16-year-old Skylar Neese. The judge agreed to let the teen serve out the first few months of her sentence in juvenile detention, but ordered that she must be moved to state prison when she turns 18 in June.

The murder plot between Rachel and another friend, 18-year-old Shelia Eddy, unraveled a year ago when Rachel told police she and Eddy had murdered their best friend Skylar, stabbing her multiple times until she died.

The girls said they lured Skylar from her Star City, W.Va., home on the night of July 6, 2012, and drove to a prearranged location in Wayne, Greene County, where the pair counted down from three and began attacking Skylar with knives.

Because Skylar snuck out of a bedroom window to meet her friends, police at first thought she was a runaway, leaving her frustrated parents to begin searching for their daughter by walking door to door, phoning friends and connecting with people on social media. Eddy and Rachel helped distribute fliers and supported Skylar's parents with heartfelt sentiments on Facebook and Twitter.

In the weeks and months after her disappearance, Skylar's family pored over her cryptic Twitter posts, evidence that something wasn't right in her life.

"Stress will be the death of me," tweeted Skylar -- under her Twitter handle @hiighasthe_sky -- two days before her death. A later tweet suggests she had trust issues with a friend.

Eddy and Rachel, too, posted dozens of photos and references to Skylar, hinting at perhaps a guilty conscience.

In a post just two days after Skylar's disappearance, Eddy, under the handle @_sheliiaa, tweeted "tiredd (sic) of losing sleep over this."

The case was the impetus behind Skylar's Law, which modified the West Virginia Amber Alert system to include immediate public announcements when a child is reported missing and in danger, regardless of whether the child is believed to have been kidnapped.

As part of her confession, Rachel led police to Skylar's shallow grave, beneath branches and debris on farmland owned by Eddy's family. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder May 1 and was to have testified against Eddy in court.

But Eddy instead pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder and was sentenced by Judge Clawges to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 15 years.

Although Rachel broke down crying and apologized Wednesday for her part in the crime, the pair has never offered an explanation for why they killed Skylar, except to tell police that they wanted to end their friendship with her.

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159. First Published February 26, 2014 1:02 PM


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