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    Natalie Keepers is led away after a jury recommended she spent 40 years in prison for her involvement in the murder of Nicole Lovell, 13

    US Murder Case Shows Why Anonymous App Kik Poses a Threat To Children

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    A teenager and his girlfriend are facing 90 years in jail for the abduction and murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell in the United States. Sputnik looks at why an anonymous app at the heart of the case is the cause of rising concern among parents in Europe and North America.

    On Friday, September 21, a jury recommended Natalie Keepers, 19, be jailed for 40 years after she was convicted of being an accessory before the fact in Nicole's murder. 

    The schoolgirl sneaked out of her bedroom window in Blacksburg, Virginia in January 2016 to go and meet a mystery man she had met through the instant messaging app Kik.

    ​She was murdered and her naked body dumped over the state line in North Carolina.

    Killer Jailed for Half a Century

    David Eisenhauer, 18, pleaded no contest to murder and kidnapping and was jailed for 50 years. 

    Keepers had denied any involvement but her trial heard they had discussed on Kik how he would kill Nicole

    A forensic scientist points to blood spots on Nicole Lovell's Minions blanket which was found in Natalie Keepers' gym bag
    © AP Photo /
    A forensic scientist points to blood spots on Nicole Lovell's Minions blanket which was found in Natalie Keepers' gym bag

    The case has raised concerns in the United States about the vulnerability of children — especially teenage girls, like Nicole.

    Kik which was founded in Canada in 2009, has 300 million users worldwide.

    In September 2017 former Congressman Anthony Weiner was jailed for 21 months in prison after pleading guilty to sexting a 15-year-old girl using Kik.

    ​Weiner, the estranged husband of Hillary Clinton's former aide Huma Abedin, wept during the sentencing hearing.

    There are growing fears about the app — which is available on most iPhones and Android devices — being used by pedophiles in Europe.

    Kik Linked to Child Abuse in UK

    On Friday, September 21, an application under the Freedom of Information Act revealed 1,147 investigations into child sexual exploitation or grooming in the UK had involved Kik.

    British police officers investigating alleged abuse on Kik have to go through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, a complex legal process, to gain access to material held by the app company at their headquarters in Ontario.

    ​"It's incredibly frustrating. We're banging our heads against a brick wall," PC Jason Cullum from Northamptonshire Police's pedophile online investigation team told the BBC.

    Kik said it would release "limited basic subscriber data" but only if there was an "imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to any person."

    Kik has so far not introduced any new security measures in the wake of the Nicole Lovell case.

    Nicole was a lonely and depressed 13-year-old who suffered from low self-esteem and spent a lot of time on social media.

    ​It was through Kik she met Eisenhauer, a freshman engineering student at Virginia Tech, who pretended to be interested in her emotionally.

    Killer Used Kik Username Dr_Tombstone

    His Kik name was Dr_Tombstone.

    One cold January night Nicole sneaked out of her bedroom for a midnight assignation with Eisenhauer. It was not the first time they had met and it is thought they may have had a sexual relationship.

    Eisenhauer killed her and buried her body.

    When Nicole did not return after a few days investigators pored through evidence in her bedroom.

    ​They found she had handwritten the usernames and passwords to all her social media accounts on her bedroom wall, including Kik.

    FBI computer forensics experts established she had used Kik a lot, keeping her true identity and age a secret.

    Parents Unaware Of App's Dark Secrets

    Her parents knew nothing about her Kik secrets.

    Eisenhauer killed Nicole because he thought she might tell someone they had sex, which could lead to him going to jail for statutory rape.

    He told Keepers about it and they discussed how to dispose of Nicole.

    "Grab her from behind, cover her mouth and slit her throat," was the "official plan" concocted by Eisenhauser.

    ​At last week's sentencing hearing Nicole's mother gave an emotional victim impact statement to the jury.

    "A couple of years from now, a couple of months from now, ya'll will all forget about this, but this will forever haunt my family," said Tammy Weeks-Doody.

    Keepers will be formally sentenced in November.

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    Tags:
    pedophile, app, social media, child abuse, murder, Canada, United States, Virginia, United Kingdom
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