Local News

June 1, 2012

Manhunt over

Neal caught in Varnell



“Whew, they just got him,” said Greg Ramey, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in confirming the arrest moments later. “In a nutshell, (the Georgia State Patrol) and local police officers were back up in the area this morning doing a real heavy patrol ... a passerby saw somebody crossing the road fitting the description. They concentrated their search to where that was. Somebody spotted something, said it looked like legs running across a field. They drew it in a little tighter and were able to apprehend him without any confrontation.”

Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant was contacted after scanner chatter revealed a suspect was “in custody.”

“I’ve got him in my hands,” said Grant. “I gotta get him out of this field.”

Lyle said Neal was on the railroad when he was apprehended.

“He didn’t have anything on him when we got him,” he replied when asked if Neal had any weapons. “We got a tip from a citizen that it was a man in a red shirt and he was running, so we headed that way.” The cause of death for Jessica Neal and Shedd has not been released by the state crime lab, and the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office is not saying what weapon or weapons were found at the scene of the killings.

Ramey said the groundwork was laid for Neal’s arrest Wednesday afternoon and overnight into Thursday morning.

“I think last night’s work did what it was supposed to do, keeping him to that area,” he said of officers cordoning off a perimeter of about a mile from where Neal was spotted by a couple in a car — Dia and Gilbert Chastain — near the intersection of Highways 2 and 201. “This is really a cooperative effort, all the law enforcement ... we had 75, probably 100 folks, in there (Wednesday) night ... citizens were made aware of it (and) you guys were helping from the media standpoint. It was one of those things that happened the way it was supposed to happen. Everybody pulled together and did what they were supposed to do — great work on everybody’s part.”

Dia Chastain said she was “relieved” when she heard of Neal’s arrest.

“They asked me if I was sure it was him,” she said of the search that began around mid-afternoon on Wednesday. “I told them I was 100 percent sure, that I saw him all the time down at the (Dazzle) tanning studio (owned by the Neals on Cleveland Highway). I sure wouldn’t get 150 officers out there in that heat for nothing.”

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