Monongalia County Circuit Judge Russell Clawges has sentenced a Monongalia County teen for her involvement in the July 2012 murder of Skylar Neese.
Clawges sentenced Rachel Shoaf, 17, to 30 years in a state prison for the second degree murder of Skylar Neese. Judge Clawges denied Shoaf's attorney's request to sentence Shoaf as a juvenile. However, Shoaf will remain in a juvenile facility until her 18th birthday, at which time a hearing will be held to determine Shoaf's placement in an adult correctional facility.
Shoaf will also be required to pay restitution for Skylar's funeral expenses and court costs.
Shoaf spoke at the sentencing, offering an apology for her actions, "I never thought this would actually happen, I became caught up in something I didn't want to do. I'm so sorry and I pray each day for everyone involved and I pray each day for forgiveness".
The apology was anything but accepted by the Neeses.
"You can never, ever say you're sorry to me or my family because you're not," said David Neese, Skylar's father. "There will never be closure for us because of what you've done. You defied our trust. We trusted you with Skylar's life and this is how you treat us."
Neese as well as his sister-in-law and brother Michael made emotional statements during the hearing.
"I know with my heart Skylar fought that night for her life and now she's gone. Your honor, I'm here to fight for her as her as she did to stay alive."
Shoaf could be seen with her head in her hands and crying throughout the hearing. Dave told Judge Clawges that he understands Rachel cooperated and helped, but asked that she serve 40 years in prison.
"Rachel Shoaf murdered my daughter in cold blood," he said. "Skylar would not be where she was if it wasn't for Rachel Shoaf. She should not be given an leniency and she can take her apologies and sit on them, because that's about what they're worth."
Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder during a May 1 plea hearing. Judge Clawges said he felt that the state could have charged Shoaf with first-degree murder and wanted to make sure the plea agreement was okay with the Neese family. Ashdown said at the hearing, that the Neese's felt the agreement was recognition of Shoaf's cooperation in the investigation, which resulted in the discovery of Skylar's remains.
"This case was shocking to us when we first learned of what Rachel Shoaf had disclosed," said Ashdown. "For us as for everyone who hears the story, it's beyond understanding. It's unbelievable."
Ashdown said Shoaf's story unraveled in November 2012. She eventually came forward and told police what happened.
"In the spring of 2012, Rachel and Shelia first joked about killing Skylar in a science class," Ashdown told the court. "Shelia and Skylar, according to Shoaf, always fought and the animosity towards Skylar intensified after Skylar accompanied Shelia on a beach vacation that summer.
Ashdown told the court the girls then decided "it's today." They armed themselves with knives and a shovel taken from home and lured Skylar out of her home.
"The night was agreed upon because Skylar was working that night and into the later evening and she'd be able to sneak out of her home easily after she had left work for the night," said Ashdown.
"She came out and met them, got into their car. Skylar was under the impression that the girls were going to drive around, up to Brave, Pennsylvania, and smoke marijuana. When they arrived at that location in the countryside, the three girls got out of the car. At an agreed upon signal of a countdown, 1-2-3, Rachel and Shelia attacked Skylar Neese and stabbed her to death. Skylar attempted to run away, but Rachel tackled her, she told police. Rachel Shoaf described the scene as having lots of blood. Shoaf estimated Skylar was stabbed ten times before she died and she explained that during the attack, Skylar Neese's neck made weird sounds and they both continued to stab her until those noises stopped."
Shoaf's co-conspirator, Shelia Eddy, entered into a plea deal and was sentenced in January. The plea deal includes a life sentence in prison with mercy. The mercy designation means that Eddy will be eligible for parole after she serves 15 years in prison. Eddy is being held at the Lakin Correctional Center in West Columbia, W.Va. Her parole hearing is scheduled for May 1, 2028, according to the W.Va. Division of Corrections website.
"Murder by a stranger is horrible, murder by a friend is unthinkable," said Monongalia County Prosecutor Marcia Ashdown at the sentencing. Ashdown explained that the case had consumed those working on it and offered insight into the ongoing's of Rachel and Shelia leading up to Skylar's murder. "Rachel and Shelia stabbed her because she was in the way of the friendship of Rachel and Shelia."