Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

TOP STORY >> A real-life horror scene

Leader staff writer

The 23-year-old Jacksonville man charged with killing a 5-year-old girl and stabbing his sister’s boyfriend in the head and face with a screwdriver Sunday night could not afford the antipsychotic medications prescribed to control his paranoid schizophrenia, de-spite his history of violence toward family members and sexually-related arrests.

Howard H. Neal, Jr., is being held without bond in the Pulaski County Detention Center on charges of capital murder, first-degree battery and two counts of first-degree kidnapping, according to Capt. Charles Jenkins, spokesman for the Jacksonville Police Department.
Neal was arrested by Jacksonville police after a 50-minute standoff at the home of his sister, Crystal Pickens, at 314 Elm Street.
“I couldn’t afford to buy his medications,” his mother, Doris Neal, said Tuesday.

Neal is due to appear in Jacksonville District Court for arraignment Jan. 11 on the charges stemming from the alleged screwdriver assault on Ronald Redden.

Redden escaped over a fence and across the railroad tracks, where he was discovered profusely bleeding and was transported to Rebsamen Medical Center, then airlifted to the University of Ark-ansas for Medical Science, where he was treated and released.
The body of Jasmine Peoples, 5, was discovered under a pile of heavy furniture, including a large television and a couch.
She was pronounced dead and taken from the home in a body bag.

The child is believed to have suffocated under the weight of the furniture, but the state medical examiner will determine the cause of death.
Peoples’ mother was a friend of Pickens, and her child was among four children at the home that night. Pickens said the group was watching the movie “Halloween” before the attack.

“He’s schizophrenic with mental problems,” Pickens said of Neal. “He talks to himself.”
Neal, who had no permanent residence, entered the home and acted increasingly irrational, Pick-ens said, before attacking Redden and warning her to get out with the children before he killed them all.
She grabbed up two children and fled.

Pickens called the attack sudden, but only a couple of days earlier, Doris Neal had removed the knives from Crystal Pickens’ home to keep them away from her son.

“I didn’t think it would go this far,” Doris Neal said. “But I didn’t have $1,000 to buy his medicine. I don’t work.”
She said she also tried to get her son help from various agencies or groups, including the jail and the Union Rescue Mission. When her son is out of jail, he is frequently homeless or bouncing from cheap motel to cheap motel or relative to relative.

Neal, who worked briefly at The Leader newspaper mail room about two years ago, hasn’t worked regularly in more than a year — much of the time he was either in jail or in some sort of mental facility such as BridgeWay in North Little Rock.
Doris Neal warned that her son would try to hang himself in jail.

Neal, who was charged with the rape of a 2-year-old girl in 2001, was released after two hung juries.
He agreed in April 2004 to a $500 fine and time served for fondling a teenaged girl and was charged in July 2004 with failing to register as a sexual offender.

The prosecution dropped the case in May 2005, according to Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson, after Neal’s lawyer provided evidence that he was in mental facilities during the time that the state maintained he should have registered.

Neal was admitted in restraints to the St. Vincent Heath System’s Living Hope Institute on June 22, 2004, where he was treated with drugs and counseling until he improved sufficiently to be discharged seven days later into a shelter, according to a medical report attained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

He was brought in on a commitment from Lonoke County, where he had “apparently tried to set his family on fire,” according to hospital records.

He reportedly also threatened family members and chased them with a hammer.
He was discharged on June 29 on Depakote, Lexapro and Zyprexa for schizo-affective disorder.
On July 8, he was admitted to the Bridge Way, where he said he was hearing voices telling him to hurt people. He told staff members he angered easily and thought about killing people when they irritated him.

“He states he was recently hospitalized at Living Hope, but they released him, knowing that he didn’t have any money to afford his medicines,” according to Neal’s discharge summary from Bridge-Way on July 19.
Neal was discharged on Abilify and Viagra “if needed.”

Without insurance, the Abilify costs about $300 a month, according to a local pharmacy. Prices for Viagra vary.

The following is a transcript of the beginning of a 911 call from Sunday night’s stabbing and murder resulting in the arrest and murder charges of Howard Neal. The transcript was obtained and provided by KLRT, Fox 16.

CALLER: Yes, I need the police to come to 314 North Elm.
DISPATCHER: What’s going on?
CALLER: Howard Neal just stabbed my boyfriend with a screw driver.
CALLER: I need you to come over here right now.
DISPATCHER: Does your boyfriend need an ambulance?
CALLER: Howard Neal just stabbed him.
DISPATCHER: What is your name ma’am?
CALLER: My name is Crystal Pickens, and I need you to come over here cause he is crazy.