The Young Girl Lured To Her Death Via A Smartphone App

Two unlikely suspects will spend the next 50 years in jail for luring a young girl to her death via a smartphone app.

Nicole Lovell from Blacksburg, Virginia was just 13 when she was stabbed to death by an 18-year-old college student who she had met online and developed a relationship with -- unbeknownst to her family.

The teenager went missing from her bedroom sometime in the middle of the night in January 2016.

As soon as her mother realised she was gone, concerns for Lovell's welfare were raised.

Born with a damaged liver, the young girl had been taking vital medication twice a day since she was very young. Now missing without her medicine, it was only a matter of time before she fell ill.

"I know she wouldn't go nowhere for that many hours without her medicine," Lovell's mother, Tammy Weeks, told 48 Hours.

Nicole Lovell. Image: CBS/48 Hours

Three days later, police located her body nearly 150km away from the family home, with at least 14 stab wounds and a slit throat.

The only solid lead investigators had was the usernames and passwords to Lovell's social media accounts written on her wall, providing a digital roadmap of the teenager's life online.

FBI computer forensics quickly established she regularly used Kik -- a chat app popular with teenagers due, in part, because they can talk anonymously without their parents knowing.

A New Kind Of Predator

In the two days leading up to her disappearance, Lovell had been messaging engineering student David Eisenhauser, who went by the username "Dr_Tombstone".

A high school athletics star and straight-A student, Eisenhauser seemed like an extremely unlikely murder suspect.

David Eisenhauser. Image: CBS

"He was a very celebrated student, he always had straight A's. … And he was sort of cocky, and he was like "Yeah, I'm David Eisenhauser, I was just on the local news, I'm a big deal," Eisenhauser's former classmate Dorothy Callahan told 48 Hours.

But in June 2018, he pleaded no contest to Lovell's murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

According to police, Eisenhauer had planned the young girl's death because he was afraid she would expose the relationship they had developed online.

"Sometimes it's usually the people we least expect,"  District Attorney in Blount County, Ala. Pamela Casey told 48 Hours.

"They could be your next-door neighbour. …they can stay behind their phone and hide behind their phone -- just like your child is doing."

Nicole Lovell. Image: CBS

Weeks explained how bullying at school and a difficult relationship with her father had left Lovell vulnerable and with confidence issues.

"She hated going to school.  She would always make me write her a note for gym because they would pick on her about her scar," she said.

Eisenhauser's accomplice -- fellow student Natalie Keepers -- was another unlikely person of interest.

The 19-year-old helped Eisenhauser dispose of Lovell's body and was sentenced to 40 years behind bars.

Natalie Keepers. Image: CBS

The shock of Lovell's murder was felt widely in her community and sparked new concerns from parents of teenagers who spend much of their time online.

"It's no longer a situation where you worry about your child meeting a stranger in the park," said Casey.

"You really need to worry about the stranger your child's meeting on the phone you gave them for Christmas. This is the new crime of our time."

Despite criticism, Kik CEO Ted Livingston told 48 Hours his app is as safe as others of its kind on the market.

"Like, when we heard about that case, that hit the office.  That hit me super hard," Livingston said.

"Kids are going to use a messenger. If we were to shut down Kik tomorrow, there'll be 10 right behind it."

Following her daughter's death, Weeks hopes her tragedy serves as a reminder of how social media can take a sinister turn in the lives of young people.

" I hope … everybody learns from this. Hold their kids tight. 'Cause it can happen to you," she said.

With CBS: 48 Hours

Feature Image: CBS