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Who Killed Shawn Neal? New Details On The Unsolved 1996 Murder Of 23-Year-Old North Carolina Mom

Photo: WMBF.com
Who Killed Shawn Neal? New Details On The Unsolved 1996 Murder Of 23-Year-Old North Carolina Mom

On June 1, 1996, 23-year-old Shawn Neal, a new mother, was supposed to meet someone at the Windy Shores II Time Share Condominium complex in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That was the last time antone ever saw or heard from the Leland, North Carolina woman. Now, more than two decades later, her murder is still unsolved. Her family and young daughter have no idea what happened to Shawn. An unsolved case of any kind can have devastating effects on a family and the case of Shawn Neal is no different. Who killed Shawn Neal?

1. Her family is still looking for answers

The murder of Shawn Neal is a cold case. Now, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division alongside Horry County law enforcement are taking a fresh look at the case in the hopes they can solve it for good. Shawn's mother, Sandra Ames, told a local news outlet while holding a photo of her daughter taken two weeks before she was murdered: ”This is a large part of our life that’s missing and missing deeply.” Sandra wants justice for her only daughter. Ames goes to the beach town that Shawn was last seen in often — but not to vacation. She is still looking for answers. She continued: ”For closure, that someone will remember something see something or think of something so that the case could be solved" She also said: "The emptiness it’s a hole, it’s a dark hole and it stays there. They took her away, they literally just took her life as if it mattered to nobody and it mattered to a lot of people.”

2. The 1996 scene of the crime

Special agent Randall Truss worked the case back in 1996 when he was with the North Myrtle Bach Department of Public Safety Uniform Patrol. He hopes to bring closure for Sandra Ames and her family. Truss said: ”There is a mother out there who has lost a daughter, and there is a daughter who has lost mother so we definitely like to find out what happened." Truss went on to say that back when the murder happened, a number of challenges stood in the way. ”Most homicides have some type of association; in this case the perpetrators and the victim had very limited association so there’s not a lot of connectivity there to draw leads or evidence towards one specific individual,” he said.

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3. The type of person who committed the crime

Special agent Bo Barton is investigating the unsolved murder of Shawn Neal alongside Randall Truss. He has a pretty good idea of the type of person who committed this crime. Shawn Neal went to meet someone at the condo complex on South Ocean Drive in North Myrtle Beach that June day. It's believed her murderer called her and asked her to come over. Barton said: “The act of calling and have somebody meet you in that unit which in this case happened, he called her to come meet him in that unit, it says a lot because he knows I’m not going to be disturbed in this unit for a period of time."

4. The killer's lifestyle

Barton believes that Shawn Neal's killer doesn't keep a high profile. He said: " He is literally is a fly under the radar kinda guy he’s not somebody who is going to have a long criminal history. He will likely have troubled relationships with women in his background and I would venture to say that he is not with somebody now.” Even though 23 years have passed since Shawn Neal was strangled to death, the investigators follow the same protocol in a cold case as they do in a new one. They go back to the crime scene and look at evidence. They talk to witnesses. They use advanced technology to learn things about the crime that they couldn't have back in 1996—such as creating a virtual crime scene to look at. 

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5. To catch a killer

A 3D image of the crime scene at the condo complex was created. Barton said that generating public interest in the case is important. Not only could it reach the person who killed Neal, but it will bring back what police call stressors. Barton said: ”There are what we call stressors that will show up more that would have been present at the time but as time passes those stressors go away because they think I’ve gotten away with it, and now with this media attention coming back up all the stressors will come back up.” Barton believes that the killer didn't plan to murder Shawn, but something happened in the heat of the moment.

If you or anyone knows anything about this case contact the South Carolina CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC or Columbia’s toll free number at 1-888-559-tips (8477)

Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. She is deeply devoted to her chocolate Labrador and an avid long distance runner. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.