STAR CITY, W.Va. — One of the West Virginia teenagers accused of fatally stabbing a 16-year-old classmate was like a second daughter to the victim's parents — a girl who had been in and out of their house since age 8, a girl who tied up the phone lines morning and night, and a girl who apparently lied to them for nearly a year about their daughter's death.
Though her name is common knowledge in this small West Virginia town, it hasn't been publicly released by authorities because of the confidentiality of juvenile court. Only if and when she is charged as an adult in the slaying of Skylar Neese will the suspect's identity be publicly revealed.
But Skylar's parents, Dave and Mary Neese, know who she is. Or at least they thought they did.
"She walked in the door when she came here. She didn't even knock. She was like our daughter," Dave Neese said. "And not to know someone is more scary than knowing them, because now you know what they're capable of."
Authorities say the unidentified juvenile and a second girl, 16-year-old Rachel Shoaf, plotted to lure Skylar out of her family's apartment and kill her last July 6.
Most likely, Skylar's mom says, the University High School honors student just thought she was going for a joyride.
"One after another, just lie, lie, lie," Mary Neese said this week in her first extensive interview since the slaying. "Did the same thing to the police. That's how the police got onto them, because they would forget what they told them at one point and tell them another, totally different story."
Investigators say Shoaf and the other girl drove Skylar to a remote spot on a gravel road where the lush woods become Greene County, Pa., just across a bridge and over the railroad tracks from the unincorporated West Virginia community of Macdale. The girls chatted for a while, according to testimony at Shoaf's plea hearing on a second-degree murder charge. Then, at an agreed-upon moment, they stabbed her.
"What was going through my baby's head?" Dave Neese wonders. "I can't imagine what she was thinking the night this happened. Why? You know? Same thing everybody else is asking. Why? Why would you kill me?
"This is a girl that's 16 years old, that loves her friends to death. Would do anything in the world for them," he said. "And they turn on her and count down — 3, 2, 1 — and stab her? I mean, what kind of sickness is that?"
Shoaf's identity was revealed May 1 when prosecutors transferred her case to adult court and accepted her guilty plea. Authorities have said nothing about Shoaf or her unidentified co-defendant since. The Neeses, however, say they expect her name to be made public soon, possibly after Shoaf's as-yet unscheduled sentencing hearing.
Shoaf told police the girls tried to bury the body, but hid it under some tree limbs when they couldn't.
And there it lay for seven months.
When the Neeses couldn't find their daughter the morning of July 7, they didn't worry. They called the unidentified suspect. No, she told them. Haven't seen her in a few days.
In hindsight, it was odd. They'd been friends half their lives but became even tighter when the suspect moved from her home in the country to a closer one in town, Mary Neese said.
"They were inseparable at that point. Either she was at our house or Skylar was at her house," Mary Neese said.
They started hanging around with Shoaf, and Skylar's other friends quietly dropped out of the picture.
Then the trouble began, her mother said, "one mess after another."
Their antics were fairly typical teenage behavior, she said — skipping class, joyriding with boys, breaking Star City's 11 p.m. curfew — until they got hauled home by police at 2 a.m. after breaking the speed limit.