05-18-2007, 09:28 PM #1Registered User
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- Dec 2005
NC - Bonnie Neighbors, 33, Johnston County, 14 Dec 1972
1972 murder case is reopened
Lawmen expect answers from new leads, technology
Marti Maguire, Staff Writer
BENSON - No one seems to have forgotten Bonnie Neighbors in the 34 years since her body was found lying alongside her crying infant son in a migrant camp near this Johnston County town.
Her family still aches for the 33-year-old homemaker who never arrived to pick up her older son from second grade on Dec. 14, 1972.
Townspeople still talk about the three-day search for her and the fear that gripped the town when the unassuming local beauty was found beaten, bound and gagged and shot twice -- but not sexually assaulted.
The slaying has baffled law enforcement officers for decades. But now a group of them hopes to solve it.
Last month, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell assembled a team of current and retired officers from his office and the State Bureau of Investigation to revisit the Neighbors homicide. Some of them worked on the original case.
Bizzell said he hopes new technology, along with new leads, will help them crack the case. A dozen tips have trickled in already. "I've got that old gut feeling that we can possibly solve this case," he said. The puzzling crime and the infant left in the bitter cold with his slain mother made newspaper headlines nationwide. The scene stuck with Bizzell, who was 14 at the time and a Johnston County native. He had heard older officers bring it up throughout his law enforcement career, and he had been asked about it several times since he became sheriff in 1998.
Bizzell said he had begun reviewing the old file when television station Fox 50 asked him if he had any intriguing unsolved cases. The station is doing a series on unsolved North Carolina slayings and plans to air a documentary on the Neighbors case this month. Bizzell hopes media exposure will help.
Over the years, some who knew Bonnie Neighbors have died and others have entered the final stages of their lives. Bizzell thinks time may have erased the reasons some may have had to stay silent.
"Someone might want to get something off their chest before their time comes," he said.
Family supports efforts
The news of the investigation was a welcome surprise for Neighbors' remaining family. Bonnie's sister, Rachel Wheeler, said she moved back to Johnston County from Florida two years ago in part to push for a resolution to the case.
Bonnie's husband, Kenneth Neighbors, and his current wife, Mary, have written letters to state officials for decades, pleading for more attention to it.
And Ken Neighbors III, the young boy kept waiting at school that day is now 42. "Even though I know it won't bring my mother back, it will bring some peace knowing that the killer has been identified," he said.
Those who knew her say that at the time of her death Neighbors had hit a high point in a life centered squarely on her family. The Neighbors family had just moved from a rental home downtown into a spacious brick ranch home they had built on N.C. 50. "Whatever it was you wanted a home to have in those days, it had it," Kenneth Neighbors said.
Her 6-month-old, Glenn, was a particular blessing. It had been seven years since their first child was born, and Bonnie had desperately wanted another.
Wheeler said she has reviewed her last conversation with Bonnie again and again. Bonnie told her she was "as happy as I'd ever been in my life."
Wheeler recalls her sister, one of eight children born to a Benson store clerk, as shy and the prettiest of the three girls in the family. Her main interests were simple: family, home and church.
Kenneth Neighbors said he had always known his wife, the way you do in a small town, but took particular notice of her as she grew older. He asked her out, and they married after a short courtship.
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05-18-2007, 09:35 PM #2Registered User
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- Dec 2005
Bonnie Wheeler Neighbors
Posted: Apr. 3, 2007 12:07 p.m.
Updated: May. 17, 2007 1:50 p.m.
Life was good for Kenneth and Bonnie Neighbors.
They met at the drive-in in Benson and were married six months later. He was older, quiet and intelligent. She was pretty and shy. The couple would stay up at night planning out their future – Ken would build up his burgeoning accounting business and if it went well they would build a house on the Neighbors family farm. They would have two children, maybe three. Finally, all the planning was paying off. Business was going well. The couple had just finished building the large, brick house on the family farm, and after trying for quite some time, Bonnie had gotten pregnant with their second child. They named him Arthur Glenn.
She was a homemaker and worked at the church school to be near her children.
But Bonnie was lonely. Ken was frequently gone, and although he tried to come home every weekend, she felt isolated in their large new home, sometimes even frightened.
Bonnie was found in an abandoned migrant labor camp outside Benson, three days after they found her bronze station wagon. She had been struck in the head and shot twice with a small-caliber handgun, in the lower abdomen. She was fully dressed and police guessed she was killed within several hours of going missing. Her four-month-old infant cried as he nuzzled beside her cold body.
.....More at link.
04-18-2015, 04:54 PM #3
Bizzell re-opened Neighbors file in 2007 because of what he described as a gut feeling. “We've got a list of individuals, that are individuals of interest in this case, that are still living and we're gonna be knocking on their doors possibly,” Bizzell said.
A cold-case squad was set up to look into Neighbors' slaying. Since then, deputies have received several tips.
DNA evidence discovered on Neighbors' clothing was sent to the SBI lab for analysis. The evidence later ruled out a man that had allegedly never cooperated with investigators and who was thought of as a person of interest by Neighbors' family.
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