Parents of murdered teen planned protest
WAYNESBURG – The parents of a West Virginia teen who was murdered last year were ready to fight Monday to have their daughter’s remains returned to them from the Greene County Coroner’s office in Waynesburg.
Skylar Neese, 16, of Star City, was murdered last July along a back road in Wayne Township. On Jan. 16, her remains were found there. They were identified as Neese in March and held by authorities in West Virginia. Most recently, Neese’s body was in the custody of Greene County Coroner Greg Rohanna.
Skylar’s father, Dave Neese, said he and his wife were frustrated and confused about why Rohanna wouldn’t give them access to their daughter’s body, citing the need for more tests.
“This guy is telling me he needs to do further tests. ... He doesn’t have the facilities to do more tests,” Neese said. “He couldn’t even determine the cause of death. Well, all he needs to do is look at the police reports to see the cause of death.”
Dave Neese said the Monongalia County prosecutor’s office called him and persuaded him to call off the protest, scheduled for 1 p.m. Neese said he was told Skylar’s remains will be returned to West Virginia, and the state police there will arrange for him and his wife, Mary, to see her body.
In a statement released through a representative at his Waynesburg office, Rohanna said he would make no comment about the active case at this time.
At a plea hearing in May, Rachel Shoaf, 16, of Morgantown, W.Va., confessed to stabbing Skylar Neese, her best friend, to death. Shoaf told authorities she committed the murder with another juvenile female who is still in police custody and pleaded guilty to second degree murder as an adult. Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney Marcia Ashdown has recommended a sentence of 20 years of incarceration for Shoaf and said the state will oppose any request made on Shoaf’s behalf to sentence her as a juvenile.
As part of the plea agreement, Shoaf agreed to not challenge the validity of her conviction by direct appeal in federal or state court, or in any legal proceeding.
No further information has been released at this time regarding the juvenile, who the Neese family said also was considered a best friend by Skylar.
On July 6, Neese climbed out of her bedroom window at the James Place Apartments to hang out with Shoaf and the other girl. The three drove to an area off Jay Phillips Road in Brave and got out to socialize. At a predetermined moment, the girls began to stab Neese, according to Shoaf’s statement.
Ashdown said Shoaf told authorities they tried to bury Neese but covered her with brush instead.
“I think police who were involved in the front lines of that interview and that part of the investigation were stunned at Rachel Shoaf’s confession,” said Ashdown in the transcript.
When they realized their daughter was missing, the Neeses conducted a door-to-door search and contacted Star City Police Department who determined Skylar Neese had run away. Family and friends, convinced otherwise, hung up fliers across both states seeking help in finding Neese. Because of her initial status as a runaway, Neese did not fit the criteria for an Amber Alert to be issued. Two months, later the W.Va. State Police and the FBI became involved in the case.
Dave and Mary Neese have said that was two months too long. They worked diligently to pass W.Va. House Bill 2453, “Skylar’s Law,” to ensure other families won’t have to wait for an alert to be issued for their missing child. Skylar’s Law was enacted on April 29. It requires a reporting law-enforcement agency to provide information about a suspected missing or abducted child to the W.Va. State Police in the initial stages of an investigation. It also requires that the Amber Alert Coordinator be contacted for a determination as to whether an Amber Alert will help to facilitate the safe return of the child.
On Sunday, friends and family of Skylar Neese visited the site where she was last known to be alive to reflect and dedicate a memorial to her.
Next to a pulloff in the road near a thicket of trees, a stream and a large maple tree, a bench carved with her name, birth and death dates rests. It overlooks a heart shaped by rocks, her photo, flowers and other tributes.