Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Nightmare on Elm St. no movie for family of victim

Until 30-40 years ago, schizophrenics like Howard H. Neal, Jr. were kept in mental institutions, but most states decided a long time ago itís cheaper to give the mentally ill anti-psychotic medication than have them locked up.

Neal, a convicted sex offender, is in custody for the murder of a 5-year-old Jacksonville girl, Jasmine Peoples, in a house on Elm Street in the Sunnyside neighborhood. Heís also charged with kidnapping and third-degree battery.
Neal has had problems with the law for a long time, but he has spent little time in jail.

He once came into our building and locked himself in my office while he made some irrational demands, but police quickly escorted him away.

His victims were not as lucky on Sunday night, when the 23-year-old Neal barricaded himself inside the house, held several adults and children hostage, allegedly stabbing a man and suffocating the little girl, as they watched a horror movie.

The Sunnyside area is no stranger to crime. Years ago, Ledell Lee, a serial murderer, had killed two women in the neighborhood, and shootings and drug busts are common.

But even Lee would stop at killing a child: Christine Lewis, one of his murder victims, was with her little daughter the night she was killed, but Lee left the girl alone.

Lee and Neal canít commit any crimes behind bars, but thatís little comfort to their victims, including Jasmine Peoples, who was suffocated in the worst possible way, with furniture tossed on top of her.

Neal, if convicted, will stay locked up for a long time, possibly in a psychiatric unit, where heíll get his daily dose of anti-psychotics that his mother says he stopped taking because they cost too much.

These medicines didnít exist 40 years ago, so the mentally ill were institutionalized.
Most will never commit a crime, but those with violent tendencies like Neal will keep assaulting their victims until the police catch these disturbed individuals and put them away.

But if they walk out of mental institutions and prisons, the next victim is only a violent outburst away.