Forever 16: A father remembers his only daughter one decade after brutal murder - Dominion Post (2024)

This month in 2012, a The Dominion Post headline read, “Police, family seek missing 16-year-old.”

That missing teen, a University High School student from Star City named Skylar Neese, was the victim of a brutal murder that had been carefully planned and carried out by her two best friends.

Security footage from the Neese’s Star City apartment complex showed Skylar leaving the building after midnight on July 6, 2012, and getting into a vehicle that then drove away. That was the last time she was seen alive.

Dave and Mary Neese, Skylar’s parents, suffered through months of searching, not knowing what happened to their only child, pleading for anyone with information to come forward.

The truth was unbelievable. Skylar’s two best friends, Sheila Eddy and Rachel Shoaf, confessed to driving to a back road in Brave, Pa., that night, where they stabbed Skylar to death.

The girls’ reason for their crime? They didn’t want to be friends with her anymore.

“That’s about the most sickening excuse I’ve ever heard,” Skylar’s father said in an interview earlier this week on the 10th anniversary of his daughter’s death. “I mean you couldn’t think of something better than that?”

Over the past 10 years, Skylar’s tragic story has spread throughout the world – books, documentaries, primetime news shows like Dateline and 20/20, even Dr. Phil has covered the inconceivable murder case.

Dave Neese said they will continue to honor their daughter by speaking out in the community and encouraging parents to get involved and ask questions when seeing changes or red flags in their teenagers.

“Skylar was beautiful, she was intelligent, she was fun. She was a good kid,” he said. Skylar was a straight-A student at University High School and had never really been in trouble.

Her father said that nothing stood out that made them think she was with a bad crowd. “She snuck out – I found out later she had smoked pot – normal teen stuff,” he said.

Daddy-daughter days are what Dave said he will miss the most. Days when Mary worked and it was just him and Skylar.

“We had the time of our lives on those days. We could do anything we wanted,” he said. “We had tea parties – one time I drank toilet water and didn’t know it.”

Dave said he will remember Skylar as a real jokester – even when she wasn’t trying – who loved to play jokes on people.

“Her Aunt Carol was her favorite target as far as jokes go,” he said, remembering a time Aunt Carol almost lit the carpet on fire.

“Skylar nicknamed her ‘Sparky’ after that and then bought her a spark plug for Christmas – she still hangs it on her tree to this day.”

Recalling more memories of a young Skylar, her dad shared a story about a time she asked him for a piece of bread so she could “feed the ants.” After being told that you don’t feed ants, Dave said she told him, “Daddy, they have to eat too.”

“That’s the kind of heart she had,” he said. “She would have never hurt anyone. She wouldn’t even let me kill a fly, because they deserve to live, too. That was her thinking.”

Dave said if he and Skylar could have one more daddy-daughter day they would likely go bowling.

“One of our favorite things was to go bowling before we picked mom up – I think one more day of bowling,” he said, trying to hold back tears.

Skylar, who would have turned 26 in February, had aspirations to become an attorney and her family wants to believe that is what she would be doing today.

“Her dream was to be a lawyer. And if you ever heard her argue you’d know exactly why,” Dave said. “She could argue a point. Her biggest thing was why. Why? Tell me why?”

In her killers’ confessions, they said her last word she spoke as they murdered her was “why?”

After a decade, the answer is still unclear.

“Whatever it was, that was not the reason. That’s not a reason to kill anybody, but they seemed to think it was, so.”

Shoaf, who was sentenced to 30 years, will have her first opportunity for parole in 2023. Eddy was sentenced to life, but will have a chance for parole in six years.

“I have a feeling that justice will prevail and she will stay in jail – that’s what I’m hoping for,” Dave said. “I just hope that the warden and the parole board and everybody else understands the severity of what they did.”

He said he isn’t sure Shoaf and Eddy still fully understand the number of lives they have affected.

Looking back at Eddy’s sentencing hearing, Dave said, “It was hard for me to sit there and listen. A girl I actually treated like my own daughter. For the judge to say ‘I sentence you to the rest of your natural life to be incarcerated.’ That’s hard to listen to – that was really hard to hear.

“I know I should have been overjoyed,” he said, “but look how many lives that ruined. It ruined our lives; it ruined their lives. It’s just – it’s senseless.

The Neeses have made it their mission to help prevent this from happening to anyone else.

“A senseless loss of lives, that’s what we want to prevent. That’s what everybody wants to prevent, I’m sure.”

One positive change from this tragedy is Skylar’s Law, which made changes to the state’s Amber Alert system.

When Skylar’s parents became aware she was missing, an Amber Alert could not be issued because Skylar’s circ*mstances didn’t fit the criteria. The law made changes so it’s easier to issue an alert.

Star City Police Chief Jessica Colebank was one of the first officers investigating the Neese case 10 years ago. She said the changes in law have made it easier to get things started more quickly in cases like Skylar’s.

“It spreads the word quicker than what it used to,” Colebank said. “That’s a huge thing that lets us explore more avenues than just, ‘Oh it’s a missing person, call us when 24-48 hours have expired.’ So, it gets the ball rolling a lot quicker.”

Skylar’s Promise is another initiative spearheaded in honor of Skylar. Students and adults can make a pledge that if they hear something in school, or anywhere, that could potentially cause harm, or put someone’s life in danger, they will tell a responsible adult about it.

“That’s not narcing, that’s saving lives,” Dave said.

The Neeses want parents to know to be aware. “You know your kid. And if they change somewhere during the course of being a kid – find out why, don’t just let it go,” Dave said. “They are changing for a reason.”

Dave said for the longest time he couldn’t find words to express his feelings and still struggles to find the words.

A friend of his, Jacki Morgan, wrote a piece called Forever Sixteen, which sums up his thoughts perfectly, he said.

“I don’t know how she did it, but she reached right into my head and got everything I was feeling,” he said.

Forever Sixteen

I am often told how strong of a man I am. That is not a true statement. I do what is necessary to survive each day.

Unless you have lost a loved one to a senseless and vicious murder, you will never be able to comprehend the pain faced every day as I awaken only to remember, once again, that my daughter is no longer with us. It is as if I lose her again each and every morning.

On a backroad in Brave, Pa., my heart was ripped from my body and I will never be the same again. While others my age share photographs of their grandchildren, my child is frozen in time in a school photo in my wallet, forever sixteen. I will never have the opportunity to walk her down the aisle as the wedding march plays and lift her veil to kiss her as I give her hand to another man. Her mother will never have the occasion to be able to hold her daughter’s hand as she labors to bring forth new life.

However, as insurmountable as our loss has been, it does not compare to what was taken from Skylar. She had her life stolen from her before she could graduate from University High School with honors. She was never able to attend college and become the lawyer that she intended to be. Her kindness to those that were a bit different and to every living thing could have made a major impact on the world that she knew. The life of a spirited and loving young woman such as Skylar Neese, that is something that you cannot begin to grasp exactly what could have been.

Absolution is not a possibility at this point in time. It is my honest assessment that it will never be a likelihood. Forgiveness is a process, a choice you have to make over and over until you are free of all hurt and pain. My precious daughter was not only viciously murdered by two individuals that she believed to be her most trusted friends, they also betrayed her on levels that a rational person could never comprehend.

Due to sickness and evil, Skylar will be forever sixteen.

Forever 16: A father remembers his only daughter one decade after brutal murder - Dominion Post (2024)


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