Neldon Neal was bound for a trial setting Thursday after testimony was heard in his preliminary hearing.
Neal, the Roby man facing second-degree murder charges in the death of his wife and who led authorities on a 62-day manhunt that ended in May, appeared with his public defender in Texas County Circuit Court. After hearing testimony from witnesses presented by the prosecution, Judge Brad Ellsworth ordered Neal back in court Aug. 7.
Texas County Prosecutor Mike Anderson introduced four witnesses, including Marsha Sumrall, the former daughter-in-law of Judy Lewis, who Neal allegedly murdered. Sumrall described a drunken Neal returning to his trailer March 13 outraged and believing that Lewis, his common-law wife, was having an affair.
Sumrall said she attempted to kill Neal after he chased Lewis with a knife, but the gun wouldn’t fire. Neal went after his own firearm, grabbed the other gun and threatened both women. Sumrall said the altercation continued outside, where Lewis leapt onto Neal’s back, was thrown down and shot in the chest.
Texas County Coroner Tom Whitaker said Lewis, who was rushed to nearby Walt’s Convenience Store where she was pronounced dead, died of excessive loss of blood due to the gunshot wound. There was an exit wound in her left back.
Neal sat emotionless through the hearing until Sgt. Kirby Johnson played a taped interview with Neal from the day of his apprehension. As his account of the shooting played through the courtroom speakers, Neal closed his eyes several times and appeared uncomfortable.
Johnson said Neal admitted he was holding the gun when Lewis was shot, but never said he pulled the trigger. Neal claims there was a struggle for the gun.
Johnson presented into evidence a hand-written map Neal drew and signed of the location he had ditched the murder weapon. It was recovered from the room of a mobile home just west of the murder scene.
Lewis, Sumrall and a man known only as “Tator,” were at the trailer when lawmen said Neal shot his wife and fled into the woods. Lewis, 51, was pronounced dead in the back seat of a vehicle at a nearby convenience store after the daughter-in-law rushed her there for help. The crime set off the manhunt, which ended with Neal’s capture along the Gasconade River in a remote area of Laclede County.
The Neal case captivated the county as tales of his run from the law surfaced. At one point, Neal lived in a log in the Mark Twain National Forest, where he ate Spam and received food items from some women accomplices.
Four people are charged with aiding him: Erica D. Moore, 31; Mary E. Thomas, 38; and Evelyn Lansdown, 32, entered not guilty pleas earlier. Another woman, Kathy McComas, 51, is to appear for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 8. According to the criminal complaints, the woman provided Neal with food, camping supplies and other items.