Local News

May 25, 2012

Double homicide in Dawnville

Alleged murderer sought

There was a knock on Wayne Warnack’s door Thursday just after the sun rose.

He opened the door. There stood a 9-year-old girl still in her pajamas, her eyes swollen from crying.

“She said she couldn’t find her mother and father and her papaw was dead,” he said.

Warnack and the girl returned to her home around the corner at 1200 Green Springs Road. Inside, he discovered a body in the floor in a pool of blood and called 911 a few minutes before 7 a.m. He said Whitfield County firefighters were on the scene within minutes and found another body in what authorities called a “pool house” adjacent to the home.

Jessica B. Neal, 27, and a relative, Don William Shedd, 69, were pronounced dead at the scene in the Dawnville neighborhood, said Capt. Rick Swiney of the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office. Neal’s husband, Adolph Ray “Sonny” Neal, 49, was being sought Thursday night on an arrest warrant for the murders of Jessica Neal and Shedd. Shedd was found in the home, while Jessica Neal was found in the pool house. An obituary listed Shedd as Jessica Neal’s grandfather.

“We’re actively looking for Mr. Neal at this time,” Swiney said late Thursday afternoon of efforts by the sheriff’s office, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Patrol and U.S. Marshals. “We think he left the immediate area on foot. We’ve searched the immediate area and we’re searching locations in state and out of state where friends and family live.”

Sheriff Scott Chitwood termed the deaths “extremely violent homicides” in an early afternoon press conference near the scene. Swiney said both victims and Sonny Neal lived at the residence. Swiney declined to say what type of weapon was used in the murders. Chitwood said the 9-year-old girl was getting ready for school, found her grandfather and screamed, which awakened another elderly man at the residence. Authorities said the elderly man was a relative, but declined to elaborate on his relation.

Whitfield County Coroner Bobbie Dixon said the bodies were sent to the state crime lab late Thursday afternoon and it could be one or two days before autopsy reports are completed.

Investigators processed the crime scene and interviewed family members Thursday afternoon. Some 12 to 15 officers were working the scene as investigators or providing security in the quiet neighborhood.

By late morning, news crews, reporters and neighbors had gathered outside yellow crime scene stretched across the road. The setting of a tranquil, leafy neighborhood with birds chirping and people speaking in hushed tones was broken by the occasional roar of a helicopter navigating search patterns overhead.

Neighbor Carrie Everett lives a few houses away and said she had not heard anything out of the ordinary on Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

“It’s so quiet out here you hear everything — it echoes,” she said. “It was quiet out here until around 1 a.m. last night when I went to bed. There was no traffic, and you can tell when someone goes by.”

At the Dazzle Tanning Salon and Boutique on Cleveland Highway, the owner is listed as Jessica Neal. The storefront business was closed during the noon hour Thursday and a FedEx note was stuck on the glass door.

Tobi Weaver of Dancer’s Workshop, next door to Dazzle, said Jessica Neal was “a very nice lady” who was devoted to her daughter. She said the business offered tanning services, clothing and jewelry. She said Sonny Neal arrived early in the mornings and ran the business.

“Jessica’s daughter was her world to her,” she said, noting the girl had been in one of her dance classes, “and her daughter worshipped the ground her mother walked on.”

Jessica Neal was also the owner of two tax accounting companies and was in the process of opening a new restaurant, according to an obituary. Another obituary stated Shedd was retired from Rome Tool and Die Co. in Rome.

Sonny Neal was arrested in 1998 for disorderly conduct, in 2000 for theft by taking and in 2010 for simple battery and public drunkenness, according to Whitfield County jail records.

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