The wife of accused murderer Sonny Neal was stabbed and her grandfather was beaten, a senior officer with the sheriff’s office said on Friday.
Jessica B. Neal, 27, and her grandfather, Don William Shedd, 69, were found dead early on the morning of May 24 at their home on Green Springs Road in the Dawnville community. Adolph Ray “Sonny” Neal, 49, was charged with their murders on the same day and was captured Thursday in Varnell after eluding authorities for a week.
“Jessica was stabbed numerous times, which resulted in her death,” Capt. Rick Swiney said. “(Shedd) received blunt force trauma to the head. He was struck several times with an object around the head area that resulted in his death. Both weapons were recovered at the crime scene.”
Swiney said a knife was found that they believe to be the weapon used on Jessica Neal but he did not say what the other weapon was.
After a stay in Hamilton Medical Center Thursday night where he was treated for dehydration and “environmental injuries” caused by being outdoors for a week, Neal was taken to the jail on Friday around 1:30 p.m. and was interviewed by investigators with the sheriff’s office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), Swiney said.
Asked if the interview was brief or extensive, he replied details were not being released.
‘Shifted the dynamics’
Neal was first spotted around mid-afternoon on Wednesday in Varnell near the intersection of Ga. Highways 2 and 201 by Dia and Gilbert Chastain. Up to 200 officers converged on the scene but Neal eluded them that afternoon and throughout the night. Dia Chastain told investigators she was certain it was Neal because she had tanned at the Neals’ tanning salon on Cleveland Highway.
Then on Thursday at 12:50 p.m., Zachary Wade saw Neal behind the Dollar General store in Varnell — where a massive command post was set up in the parking lot the day before — when Wade was riding in a car with his mother to go to the store. Officers had Neal in custody around 20 minutes after Wade called 911. Sheriff Scott Chitwood said Neal initially ran but then gave himself up without incident.
Greg Ramey, an agent with the GBI office in Calhoun, was asked if the “scaling back” of the law enforcement presence in Varnell on Thursday morning — compared with up to 200 officers on the scene Wednesday and 150 staying on duty through Wednesday night — was designed to make Neal believe the pressure was off.
“Part of the plan was to have a patrol up there and keep a little bit of pressure on him,” he said, “but we were hoping that he was going to start moving and that citizens would pick him out — and that’s exactly what happened.”
“Anybody that’s spent time outdoors knows the cover of darkness is the greatest time to move, and so we kept enough pressure on him at dark to keep him still, keep him from moving on us,” he detailed. “Then sure enough during the day — that’s when he had to move then, or felt like he needed to move.”
Ramey said he isn’t sure if Neal had a reason to be in the Varnell area.
“I still don’t know what his plan was, where he was ultimately trying to get to,” he said. “But I think we shifted the dynamics on him enough that he knew, ‘Oh man, I can’t move at night.’ You saw all the lights — that had to put a scare in him that he thought, ‘I have to lay down,’ and that’s exactly what we wanted. Because you know how hard it is to track somebody at night. Then you loosen it a little during the day, but you got more people out during the day that can see. And that’s exactly what happened. It was a good combination of having enough law enforcement there to help us do what we needed to do, plus citizens being on the lookout and media providing a description and updates.”
A Magistrate Court spokeswoman said on Friday that Neal’s “first appearance” for bond would be waived and he will go straight to a Superior Court bond hearing, a common procedure with serious crimes. District Attorney Bert Poston said Neal’s bond appearance in Superior Court will likely be on Tuesday.