An expert is weighing in on the tragic death of 13-year-old Virginia teen Nicole Lovette, and how the circumstances surrounding her death are actually rare, despite rumors of the abundance of online danger.
People reports that Nicole’s death caused an outpour of worry and anxiety from other parents whose children interact on social media, but University of New Hampshire sociology professor and director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center David Finkelhor said that these types of crimes are unique. The professor stated that research that goes back to the 1990s indicate that most online meetings don’t result in death for children.
“We have done a number of studies looking at cases of Internet crimes against children that are known to the police, and annually, the vast majority of homicides of children are at the hands of family members, peers, gang members, dating partners – people they know.”
Finkelhor also stated that only around three percent of sex crimes against children involve online communication, and that the rumor of online danger is somewhat of a myth.
“About three percent of all sex crimes committed each year against children involve Internet communications, and most of those cases involve someone the victim met through school, at a party, on the bus, at church, or on the street. The idea that the danger online is primarily from so-called strangers they don’t know is kind of mistaken. Telling kids not to talk to people they don’t know online is misleading, given the chances they’ll be victimized by someone they know are greater than the chances it’d be someone they didn’t know.”
Yet, Finkelhor also points out that since incidents such as Lovell’s can happen, it’s important to talk to children about what healthy relationships constitute. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to be realistic with their kids, even if they think they aren’t listening to advice.
The professor pointed out that in a “funny” way, the Internet is actually helping to protect children from dangers, which are more prone to happen when kids are outside. He claimed that children are also more wary of people even when they are outside, since they see so many shady happenings online. They are learning to stay away from sketchy people.
“The Internet could actually be protecting kids in a funny way. I think kids are doing more of their risk-taking and independence-striving online, at home. They’re not going out, into the world, into their neighborhood, which are riskier environments in many ways.”
Nicole disappeared just after midnight on January 27. When her mother Tammy Weeks went to check on her, she found her daughter’s window open and her Despicable Me“Minions” blanket missing. An extensive search to find the teen ensued shortly after.
Three days later, Nicole’s young body was found face-down in the woods in North Carolina. She apparently died from stab wounds. Two Virginia Tech college freshmen, David Eisenhauer, 18, and Natalie Keepers, 19, were arrested and charged with the 13-year-old’s murder.
After questioning the college students, they both admitted to the murder and also admitted that it was premeditated. Prior to meeting up with Nicole, the two college freshmen sat in a restaurant and plotted out how they would lure her to meet and then carry out the murder. Authorities believe that Eisenhauer was in an inappropriate relationship with Nicole, which was close to being exposed. They also believe that Nicole met Eisenhauer through kik, a smartphone instant messenger application (app).
According to court documents, Keepers told a judge that she decided to help Eisenhauer because she was “excited to be part of something secretive and special.” The “secret and special” part ended with Keepers helping Eisenhauer move Nicole’s body to the trunk of his car and assisting in disposing Nicole in the woods. She also allegedly helped buy cleaning supplies while Nicole was still in the trunk.
After police searched Keepers’ home, they found Nicole’s “Minions” blanket, along with cleaning supplies, inside the residence. Both Eisenhauer and Keepers are being held at the Montgomery County, Virginia jail.
The father of Nicole Lovell recently appeared on the Dr. Phil show, where he said his daughter probably didn’t go out without a fight.
“I bet she fought like a wildcat. I mean she’s my kid. I know she fought like a wildcat.”
[Photo by the Blacksburg Police Department]