The second West Virginia teen charged in the July 6, 2012 death of 16-year-old Skylar Neese, pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree murder and was sentenced by Monongalia County Chief Judge Russell Clawges to life in prison.
Sheila Eddy, 18, of Morgantown, W.Va., was scheduled to stand trial next week, but opted to enter a plea to first-degree murder with mercy, making her eligible for parole in 15 years. However, Clawges was very specific in telling Eddy this is only a “possibility” and it is entirely up to the state parole board to deny or grant parole.
Neese’s body was found last January along a rural road in Wayne Township, Greene County. Eddy’s accomplice, Rachel Shoaf, also of Morgantown, cut a deal with West Virginia prosecutors last May that led them to Neese’s body in exchange for a guilty plea to second-degree murder. Shoaf’s plea agreement included stipulations to cooperate fully in the investigation, not appeal her sentence and to testify against Eddy in the event of a trial. She has not yet been sentenced.
Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney Marcia Ashdown said Eddy and Shoaf grew fearful of Neese exposing their “secrets” so they devised a plan to silence her. On the day of the murder, Eddy and Shoaf took two kitchen knives and placed them under their clothing. They got a shovel to bury Neese’s body and drove to a remote location with her still alive. On a predetermined countdown, they began to stab her. Ashdown said they then waited for her to cease breathing and tried to dig a hole to bury her but the ground was too hard. Instead, they covered her with twigs and other debris and “left her to nature,” Ashdown said. They then changed into the clean clothing they brought with them and went about their lives as if nothing happened, she said.
Eddy remained silent when asked by Clawges if she had anything to say. Her attorney, Michael Benninger, said Eddy’s silence Friday and the silence of her family leading up to the proceeding should not be taken as “a sign of disregard or lack of remorse by Sheila Eddy or any member of her family.” Benninger said he can attest without reservation that Eddy and her family will be eternally sorry. Bennington said he hoped all of the families involved, especially the Neeses, can move forward and find some peace.
Greene County District Attorney Marjorie Fox spoke on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which relinquished its jurisdictional right to try Eddy. Fox submitted a letter of agreement to the court underscoring the circumstances in which the Commonwealth would pursue action.
“I am not a party to this action today,” Fox said, noting the agreement. “I’ve indicated the circumstances in the agreement under which the Commonwealth would step down and the circumstances in which it would step forward and prosecute.”
As part of the plea agreement Eddy cannot pursue an appeal of her case, except to claim ineffective counsel by Bennington. However, she was specifically asked by Clawges if she had a problem with the effectiveness of Bennington’s representation in any way and she said, “No, sir.” Charges of kidnapping and two counts of conspiracy against Eddy were dropped as part of the plea.
Although Bennington asked that Eddy be returned to the juvenile facility for a period of one month for a more “humane” transition, Clawges denied the request. He placed Eddy into the custody of the West Virginia Department of Corrections with a footnote that she return to the juvenile facility until a bed is available in a state prison.
“If that’s tomorrow, that’s tomorrow. If it’s 30 days from now, it’s 30 days,” he told Eddy.
Speaking on behalf of Skylar were her father, David Neese, and her aunt, Carol Michaud. David Neese said he and his wife, Mary, will never know the fear or shock Eddy and Shoaf saw in their daughter’s eyes as they stabbed her to death or the pain she felt. Michaud said Eddy took away her sister Mary’s hopes and dreams for her little girl.
“She came and acted as if she knew nothing. She pretended and stayed with us and comforted us and swore she had no idea what was going on,” Michaud said. “To come to this day and admit she did just shows how evil she can be.”