published Thursday, May 31st, 2012

BREAKING: Suspected killer Sonny Neal caught in Whitfield County

Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents confirm that suspected killer Sonny Neal has been found in the same area where he was spotted walking down Highway 201 toward Varnell Wednesday afternoon.

A tip sparked a massive search that lasted most of the Wednesday night. Tracking dogs, dozens of officers on foot, SWAT teams and a helicopter with infrared cameras participated.

Neal is suspected of killing his wife, Jessica, and her grandfather, Donald Shedd, last week and then fleeing the scene of what police are calling one of the goriest killings in Whitfield County history.

Sonny and Jessica Neal lived with their daughter, Shedd and Sonny Neal’s stepfather at 1200 Green Springs Road, police said. Everyone was home, police say, when Sonny Neal killed his wife and her 70-year-old grandfather between 10 p.m. Wednesday and early Thursday morning.

Police don’t believe Sonny Neal’s stepfather knew what happened, because he has dementia. But the Neals’ 9-year-old girl found Shedd early in the morning and ran to a neighbor’s house, saying: “Somebody’s killed my papaw.”

Family members said the couple was going through a difficult time in their marriage.

The Neals married eight years ago, when Jessica Neal was 19 and Sonny Neal was 41. Together they ran a tanning salon, Dazzle, off Cleveland Highway. Jessica Neal was going to school to become a dental hygienist, friends and family said.

Neal is being treated at Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, Ga., for minor scrapes and cuts.

For complete details, see tomorrow’s Chattanooga Times Free Press.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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