Pretty Little Killers

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I picked up this book because of the catchy title, having never heard of this murder before, and curious to see what happened. As soon as I Googled “Murder of Skylar Neese,” a picture of Shelia in her jumpsuit and messy bun and glasses popped up — and I realized I knew exactly where I had seen that girl before — I HAD heard of this crime, after all, the one where a young girl’s friends murdered her because they “didn’t want to be friends anymore.”

The book is essentially a collection of news articles, interviews, Twitter & Facebook posts, and the original e-book combined into a True Crime Novel. It shows.

The murder is tragic, albeit fascinating because of two reasons: first, the murderers were two girls — YOUNG girls. Second, the investigation looked heavily into the girls’ social media. I’m sure this is quite common now, but going back to my first point, the girls were young and couldn’t control their urge to type every thought out on Twitter in their private worlds. And boy, were their Tweets pored over and pored over again.

I look at their cheeky faces and they look like your average fourteen-year-old at your average high school. It reminds me: what was I doing at that age? Certainly, I was caught up in high school drama, but what turns high school drama into murder? They’re too young, and yet, somehow were able to come to a conclusion that murder was the only solution to whatever problems they had. Even worse, the girls (at least, according to the book) seemed to proceed in a linear fashion. Their problems with Skylar began to escalate, fights broke out more often and more violently, while three sides spewed venom over Twitter, making their drama a priority over the rest of their lives (oh, what fond memories of high school!) When things got bad enough, Rachel and Shelia began plotting Skylar’s murder, and of course, they eventually carried it out.

Obviously, neither Rachel nor Shelia had read Crime and Punishment or Macbeth, because if they had, they would have known that, even if you commit the “perfect” crime and you feel like nothing can be traced back to you, your guilty conscience will give you away eventually and you will fall. And that’s exactly what happened. After a year of pretending to grieve, pretending to help Skylar’s family search for her, pretending everything was fine (even taking funny selfies in class together), one girl cracked. And after setting them up with the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the truth came out.

I wish this book looked less into speculation. I found the emphasis on the “lesbian connection” too strong, even though one encounter did happen, as Skylar wrote in her diary, but I don’t feel like it was that important of an event to directly spark the idea that Skylar should die–especially not if Shelia was as much a party animal as we’re told, and she would often do things like that and worse at parties in front of Skylar, and many others, for attention. And the supposed “sex after murder” part is just revolting. It doesn’t belong here. I think the authors were trying to provide spectacle and drama, but I’m not interested in that. Why put it in if it never happened and there’s no way to prove it? Also, how did the author know that while stabbing Skylar, Rachel and Shelia accidentally pocket-dialed people in the heat of the attack? I like all the information provided, but I’d like some information about how it all got to the authors.

I’m interested in what really happened, particularly the facts of what happened after Skylar’s body was found — namely, the trial. I wanted quotes and snippets from the trial and I wanted to know what happened, what reasons the girls gave for viciously murdering their best friend. Sadly, the trial is glanced over. I wish the authors had done less writing about the family drama, even though it was interesting, and the battle between the Hunts and Neeses. However, I really did like the parts about Skylar’s high school friends — it was fun watching the boiling waters rise below Shelia and Rachel and how they’d take it in school.

I understand, though I’m disappointed the authors couldn’t answer “WHY” it happened because they, like the rest of the world, have no answer. Only Shelia, and maybe Rachel, know the real reason. Or, maybe there really isn’t a reason. Maybe it was just a stupid act and the girls truly believed they could avoid taking responsibility. Whatever the reason, I’m certain that it wasn’t worth it, especially if the murder happened to do with Skylar “revealing their secrets.” These girls weren’t insightful enough to realize that all eyes were on them from the beginning, once they admitted they were the last ones to be with Skylar, and that all their secrets would be revealed anyway.

Overall, this was a neat book, badly written, about a recent crime that is overpoweringly sad, because Skylar was the only child of her parents and they tried to give her the most love and best life they could. The murder is chilling because it’s ordinary. Skylar gets out of work late one summer night in July and is relaxing in her room when her friends call and want to hang out.

And that’s it.

I’ve really not read any true crime, so like I said earlier, I found it an interesting psychological study on the young Millennial, particularly regarding the social media aspect. It’s creepy that I can go onto Skylar’s Twitter right now and read her Tweets as if I’m her friend from school, lazing at home in the summer. And then her tweets abruptly end. Same for Shelia. It’s even creepier to read hers, knowing that she’s a murderer trying to cover up her crime and continue a normal life. Like Skylar, her tweets abruptly end, too — because she’s in prison.

Both girls are going to live out their days, I hope, in jail, and I don’t know if they’re remorseful, but perhaps now they are faced with the inescapable fact that their self-centered teenage bad habits and one terrible decision have impacted laws, families, teachers, and their own lives. And while the true crime book was written as a warning for parents, I believe it would be better suited as a warning for today’s teenagers: do not pour your thoughts and life into the internet; it will come back to bite you in some way. That could be future embarrassment, or something worse. Do not blindly trust people. Listen to your parents, or at least, respect them. Be independent, but don’t rely on others’ judgment, only your own. Be true to yourself.

And above all: Learn to Take Responsibility. Learn it Well, and Learn it Now. 

I’d read this book if you’re interested in learning about the people involved in the crime and its investigation, their personalities, and the relationships of all of them. It’s a neat character study. If you’re looking for cold facts, it’s a little loose.