Warnings ignored before murder of student?

A sign at Blacksburg Middle School (Photo Courtesy of the Montgomery County School system)
A sign at Blacksburg Middle School (Photo Courtesy of the Montgomery County School system)

Kari Cook says she told a school official about an Nicole Lovell’s “inappropriate relationship with an adult man” weeks before the 13-year-old was abducted and murdered.

Cook, a student and friend, says Lovell posted a photo of a man who appeared to be older than 18 on Facebook and also posted messages saying she was dating the man.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Cook said she told a resource officer at the school about Lovell’s involvement with the man.

“She was talking to him about how they were a cute couple,” Cook said.  “I was really scared.”

The online name of Lovell’s “older man” did not match David Eisenhauser, the 18-year-old Virginia Tech freshman who is Montgomery County regional jail on first-degree murder charges for Lovell’s death but fake names are part of the nature of online predators.

According to the Post, two police officers familiar with the investigation say Lovell had “sexual contact” before her disappearance in January.

Lt. Mike Albert of the Blacksburg police department, says School Resource Officer Mark Haynie was not contacted by Cook, adding that Haynie “would have acted on it through the appropriate channels.”

School officials interviewed by televisions stations avoid any discussion about bullying of Lovell at the school although her friends say she was a target of such abuse.  They talk, instead, of a school life for Lovell that does not match her journals and essays she posted online.

The Associated Press reports a neighbor of Lovell showed her daughters a picture of “David” along with threads of conversations of him on Facebook on the day she disappeared. The Roanoke Times and the Post have also reported on her activities leading up to her disappearance, abduction and murder.

Cook says Lovell was a “bubbly” young girl in elementary school but became more subdued at Blacksburg Middle School because she was a victim of bullying by students over her weight and her physical scars from a liver transplant.

She says she talked specifically to school resource officer Haynie in December after seeing Lovell’s posts on Facebook about dating an older man.  She said she also talked directly to Lovell at school before giving Haynie written information about about “David” and she said the officer assured her that he would talk with Lovell.

Lt. Albert denies the conversation between Cook and Haynie occurred.  He claims “no one” warned the officer that Lovell was dating an adult.

Some students at the middle school, talking only “off the record” say otherwise.  They claim the school knew about the bullying and that there was “lots of talk around the place” about Lovell’s involvement an older “someone.”

School officials, in public interviews, make no reference to the bullying Lovell faced at Blacksburg Middle School.

Says Bob Lotter, founder and chief executive of My Mobile Watchdog:

It is the dark web of social networking where anybody can be anything.

Lovell used Nik, a networking app, to unsuccessfully hid her identify online  Nik is based in Canada. Spokesman Rod MdLeod, in an email:

User safety is extremely important to Kik, We’ve built unique safety features right into the app, allowing people to block, filter, or report inappropriate behavior. We are also actively involved in a broader societal effort to educate parents, kids, and law enforcement about online trust and safety.

FBI officials say information from Kik was not as available as the company claims.  It took “multiple emergency requests” while searching for the missing Lovell.

Blacksburg police have now put a lid on responses to media requests about what or what not was disclosed to them about Lovell’s behavior with “an adult male” or any other activities in the weeks leading up to her murder.

Was a report given to officials and ignored?  That is one of the many questions surrounding the tragedy in Blacksburg.

(Edited to add additional information)

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