Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

TOP STORY >>Alleged killer has hearing rescheduled

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Family and former bosses showed up in Pulaski County Circuit Court Tuesday for the mental health hearing of a 25-year-old Jacksonville man alleged to have killed a 5-year-old Jacksonville girl in October 2005, but the hearing was cancelled.
Howard H. Neal, Jr., charged with capital murder, kidnapping and third-degree battery at the time for killing the child and also for stabbing his sisterís boyfriend in the head and face with a screwdriver was not competent to stand trial at the time, according to Jenna Sherrill, the deputy Pulaski County prosecutor and he was committed April 3 to the state hospital for evaluation. The hearing has been reset for July 9 so he can undergo more testing, according to an officer of the court.
Nealís mother, sister and other family members as well as his former supervisors at the Leader newspaper and at the Crooked Hook restaurant, were subpoenaed for the hearing.

Neal has a history of mental problems and was off his medication at the time of the incident, his mother, Doris Neal, said at the time.

Neal has been diagnosed in the past as a paranoid schizophrenic with a history of violence toward family members and sexually related arrests. Jacksonville police arrested Neal Oct. 23, 2005, after a 50-minute standoff at the home of his sister, Crystal Pickens, at 314 Elm Street. The body of 5-year-old Jasmine Taylor was discovered under a pile of heavy furniture. She was pronounced dead at the scene and taken from the home in a body bag.

Neal also stabbed an adult visitor in the home, Ronald Redden, who escaped over a fence and across the railroad tracks, where he was found bleeding profusely.

Nealís mother said at the time that she couldnít afford the antipsychotic medicine he needed and had been prescribed, and she could find no agency to help despite his history of violence toward family members and sexually-related arrests.
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 of 2004 with failing to register as a sexual offender.

The prosecution dropped the case in May 2005, according to Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson, after Nealís 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 Systemís Living Hope Institute 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 ďapparently tried to set his family on fire,Ē according to hospital records.

He reportedly also threatened family members and chased them with a hammer. He was discharged June 29 on Depakote, Lexapro and Zyprexa for schizoaffective disorder. On July 8, he was admitted to the Bridgeway, 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.

When Neal is out of jail, he is frequently homeless or bouncing from cheap motel to cheap motel, she said at the time.
Neal himself hadnít worked regularly in more than a yearómuch of the time he was either in jail or in some sort of mental facility such as Bridgeway.