published Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Prosecutors say Sonny Neal eligible for death penalty

Prosecutors say a Dawnville, Ga., man who was recently indicted on charges that he butchered his wife and beat her grandfather to death is eligible for the death penalty.

Adolph "Sonny" Neal, 49, was indicted on two counts of malice murder last week, but Conasauga Circuit District Attorney Bert Poston said he hasn't decided whether he will ask for the ultimate penalty for Neal.

On May 24, Neal fled from police after prosecutors said he stabbed his 27-year-old wife, Jessica, over and over with a knife and beat to death her 69-year-old grandfather, Donald Shedd, with a wrench.

Friends and family have said they believed that Neal, who was 22 years older than his wife of eight years, snapped after Jessica had decided to break off the marriage.

Jessica Neal was the face of Dazzle, the tanning salon and boutique she owned with her husband.

The couple's 9-year-old daughter found her great-grandfather, who was living with the couple, dead in the kitchen of their Dawnville home. Police later found Jessica dead in the pool house.

For a week, Neal avoided a massive manhunt involving nearly a hundred officers. When he was found in the woods 12 miles from his home in Varnell, he was wearing a clean red shirt and jeans. But police haven't said whether Neal had an accomplice who helped him hide.

Because Neal allegedly killed two people at one time, he is eligible for the death penalty, said Poston, because one of the criteria is committing a murder at the same time as another felony. Poston has until Neal is arraigned to decide what to do, which will be some time next year.

Jessica's parents, Cindy and Billy Miller, didn't return calls seeking comment. But they said in a previous interview that Jessica had told her stepmother two days before she died that she wanted a divorce.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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