A Roby man who garnered national headlines when he led authorities on the longest manhunt in modern county history was found guilty last week of voluntary manslaughter in the March 2007 shooting death of his wife.
Neldon H. Neal, 64, faces life in prison following the conviction by a Moniteau County jury at the Pulaski County Courthouse. Sentencing is Dec. 3 in front of Judge Tracy Storie.
The manslaughter conviction was a B felony. But because Neal is a persistent offender – meaning he has two prior prison commitments – he will be sentenced as an A felon. Texas County Prosecutor Michael Anderson said Neal could receive the same sentence he would have faced had he been convicted of second-degree murder, which Anderson was seeking.
“I’m pleased with the outcome,” Anderson said.
Neal disappeared into the woods March 13, 2007, behind his Roby trailer after an argument and struggle over a handgun led to Judy Lewis’ death. Her former daughter-in-law drove Lewis less than half a mile to Walt’s Convenience Store, where she was pronounced dead.
Armed with two handguns, Neal hid inside a hollow log deep in the Mark Twain Forest for the first week of his 62 days on the run. He received aid from four women, who provided food, camping equipment and even a copy of the Houston Herald that depicted authorities’ hunt for the suspected killer.
Neal, who was featured on America’s Most Wanted as he continued to elude officers, was finally tracked down with the help of federal agents. A tip led authorities to a remote area along the Gasconade River in Laclede County, where he was arrested without incident.
In May, Neal was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in federal prison without parole after pleading guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Neal admitted that he was carrying a .25-caliber pistol when he fatally shot his wife. Neal also admitted that he had a .22-caliber revolver when he was arrested.
Neal was ordered to serve the federal sentence consecutively with another sentence he is serving for unrelated state charges. Neal has two prior felony convictions for unlawful use of a weapon, as well as felony convictions for robbery and false imprisonment.