Skylar's parents had left for work early in the morning of July 6 (Friday), assuming Skylar was still in her bed. Her father, Dave, came home around midday so that Skylar could borrow his car for her shift at Wendy's. However, no one was home, and the door to Skylar's room was locked - from the inside. Dave then noticed a small bench outside and an open window and realized Skylar had snuck out at some point during the previous night. He immediately called Shelia to find out if she had been in contact with Skylar; she admitted to having talked to Skylar on the phone around midnight, but hadn't seen her. Soon after Mary, Skylar's mother, got home, a manager at Wendy's called asking about Skylar's whereabouts: With the situation seeming more serious by the minute, the Neeses called the police. The phone rang again; this time it was Shelia, calling back admitting that she and Rachel had in fact gone joyriding around Morgantown with Skylar the previous night. According to her, they had picked Skylar up at around 11:00 pm and returned her home at the end of the street in less than an hour, before midnight.

Soon Shelia and her mother, Tara, arrived at the Neeses' apartment, wanting to help find Skylar. The Eddys and Mary went from house to house on one side of Crawford Avenue, while Dave and an officer from the Star City Police Department took care of the other side, asking their neighbors if anyone had seen Skylar. Mary then remembered that the building had had security cameras installed some time earlier. The landlord let the group (the Neeses, the Eddys and the officer) into a tiny room that housed the surveillance equipment. On the surveillance video, Skylar is seen getting into a car at 12:31 am. This car had parked on Fairfield Street, right next to the Neeses' apartment. None of the individuals looking at the grainy footage recognized it as Eddy's car (a silver Toyota Camry): In fact, the landlord referred to the vehicle on the video as an SUV. (The FBI later enhanced the blurry video.) None suspected Shelia's story at this point, so they didn't bother to rewind to see if she had indeed picked Skylar up nearly two hours before Skylar got into this "unknown" vehicle. Considering the video evidence, the officer suggested the Neeses give it a few days, that Skylar had likely ran away with someone voluntarily and was likely to come back. While the Neeses knew Skylar would never do such a thing, they wanted to believe she had, for the alternative seemed much worse.

Skylar is seen getting into an unknown vehicle at 12:31 am on July 6. (Dateline NBC, WVSP)

The tiny Star City Police Department assigned officer Jessica Colebank to the case. The FBI also got involved almost immediately due to a possible link to an earlier missing person (Aliayah Lunsford) case, and thus FBI Agent Morgan Spurlock joined Colebank for the investigation. The two interviewed Shelia on July 9. Shelia merely repeated what she had told earlier about picking Skylar up at 11:00 pm and dropping her off at the end of Crawford Avenue less than an hour later. However, Colebank later described Shelia's behavior as narcissistic and "wrong". Shelia also seemed more curious about the investigation than worried about her missing friend. Colebank also found it strange that they'd drop Skylar off such a long way from her apartment, but Shelia simply said that Skylar had insisted that they do so, so as not to wake up her parents. Colebank also noticed Shelia's silver car and considered the possibility that the car could be the one she had seen on the video.

The next day Colebank called Rachel who pretended not to have even heard of Skylar's disappearance. She had left for the church camp on July 7, but had spent July 6 boating on Cheat Lake with her mother, Patricia, and her mother's friend, Kelly Kerns: Both had noticed a cut on Rachel's ankle. It was agreed that Rachel would show up for a face-to-face interview once she got back from the camp - but she never showed up. When Colebank later got a chance to interview Rachel face to face, she told the exact same story as Shelia, that they dropped Skylar off at the end of Crawford Avenue, at a point where it intersects with University Avenue. (See a map here.) That their stories matched to such a degree was suspicious, as if rehearsed. Nevertheless, there was nothing to go on so officially, as Skylar was seen voluntarily getting into a car, she was considered a runaway, and thus the State Police refused to issue an AMBER alert (which is only issued for abducted children). No family member or friend of Skylar considered it likely that she had simply ran away; not only would it have been totally out of character, but she had also left her contact lenses & phone charger at home, not to mention the bench and the open window that implied that when she left, she had every intention of coming back.

One of the early "MISSING" posters.

The school year started on August 16 but Skylar hadn't returned home for what would have been her junior year in high school. The investigation seemed to be going nowhere. After an outburst at the Star City Police Department on August 24, Mary contacted the State Police, who immediately took on the case (if they hadn't already). Corporal Ronnie Gaskins and Senior Trooper Chris Berry of the State Police had been investigating a series of bank robberies in the Blacksville area. One bank had been robbed a month before Skylar's disappearance, another ten days after, so the troopers heavily considered the possibility that Skylar's disappearance might have something to do with them, especially when they learned that the younger brother of one of their suspects had been romantically involved with Shelia and had also known Skylar: Dylan Conaway was interviewed as a person of interest and remained as such all the way to the end. But he had nothing to do with what happened to Skylar.

Warrants were issued to seize means of electronic communication from Shelia and Rachel on September 3. Gaskins and Berry also reviewed the surveillance tape several times before finally figuring out Shelia is never seen picking Skylar up at 11:00 pm. (More about the security video here.) The troopers then combed through western parts of the state, more specifically the area (including the backroads) around Blacksville. They were also able to gather evidence from other security cameras around the city to call into question the timeline the girls had given them.

Making the most of their Skylar-free time.

In November, a federal grand jury convened in Clarksburg with the three girls' friends subpoenaed to appear before the jury. No one could quite figure out what it was all about (and the records have been kept secret to this day), but statements from those who were subpoenaed indicate that it was mostly about drug traffic in Blacksville, but also about Skylar and the bank robberies. One of the subpoenaed teens was Crissy Swanson, Shelia's distant cousin. After the proceedings, she called Tara to reassure her about the nature of the hearing. At that point Tara mentioned that Shelia had admitted, through her attorney Michael Benninger, that she, Rachel and Skylar had been in Brave on the night Skylar disappeared. It is unclear why Shelia had deviated from her original story, but it's probable it was in response to the authorities having poked holes into her joyriding-just-around-Morgantown story. Crissy then called Shelia, who was with Rachel, to reassure them as well that everything was okay; but what Tara had said about Brave had left her in doubt.

Of course, Crissy was just another pawn in Shelia's game. Shelia had from the beginning tried to insert herself into the investigation by manipulating others. She cried on Skylar's bed, not many days after having murdered her, as a means to get on the Neeses' good side. She distributed "Missing" posters around town to give the appearance of a good friend. She inquired the Neeses about the investigation, and when the police told the Neeses that they shouldn't tell her anything, that she's the one who knows more than she's telling, she started using others to spy for her.

Meanwhile, rumors were spreading in the halls of University High. Maybe Skylar had overdosed and the girls had left her somewhere in a panic? Shelia and Rachel seemed to be spending even more time together, and didn't seem too bothered by their best friend's disappearance. On their social media accounts, there were only a few sporadic mentions of Skylar whenever it seemed convenient. As the rumors intensified, so did taunting and harassment of the girls, even if both could count on several friends who remained fiercely loyal all the way until both pled guilty. Daniel Hovatter, an old friend of Skylar's and her co-worker at Wendy's, was persistent and kept bugging Rachel, who was in the same drama class. Anonymous Twitter accounts were set up to harass the girls; and whoever was behind these accounts, they had extensive knowledge of the case, including the ongoing criminal investigation. While Shelia seemed unmoved by all the harassment, even referring to the FBI as her "buds", Rachel started to crack.