Neal v. State

Decision Date23 May 1984
Docket NumberNo. 54739,54739
Citation451 So.2d 743
PartiesHoward Monteville NEAL v. STATE of Mississippi.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

John L. Clay, Jackson, Joe Dale Walker, Monticello, for appellant.

Bill Allain, Atty. Gen. by Amy D. Whitten, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Jackson, Richard Douglass, Hattiesburg, for appellee.

En Banc.

ROBERTSON, Justice, for the Court:


Howard Monteville Neal has been indicted, tried and convicted of the capital murder of his 13-year-old half-niece, Amanda Joy Neal. The jury subsequently decreed that for his crime he must die.

At the core of this appeal is Neal's challenge to the admissibility into evidence at his trial of a full confession he gave law enforcement officers following his arrest. To be sure, if the confession be excluded Neal would go free. There is no other probative evidence in the record sufficient to sustain a conviction (or obtain a new one). After a careful scrutiny, we have concluded that the trial judge correctly allowed the confession to be used against Neal.

Finding no other errors requiring reversal, our duty becomes clear: the affirmance of the conviction of Howard Monteville Neal of the crime of capital murder and his consequent sentence of death.



The victim of this tragic crime was Amanda Joy Neal, a 13-year-old girl. Amanda Joy lived with her mother in Hattiesburg, as her parents were divorced. On January 23, 1981, Amanda Joy left to spend the weekend with her father, Bobby Neal, the defendant's half-brother on his farm near Monticello in Lawrence County, Mississippi.

On the evening of January 24, 1981, Amanda Joy and her father drove to the home of her aunt, Betty Sue Langston, to pick up Mrs. Langston's daughter, Amanda Joy's cousin and close friend, Melanie Sue Polk. The two girls had planned to spend the night together at Amanda's father's home and then attend church together the next morning. Bobby Neal and the two girls left the Langston home at approximately 10:00 o'clock on Saturday night. This was the last anyone saw any of the three alive.

On Sunday evening, January 25, Melanie Sue did not return home. As the evening wore on, Mrs. Langston became concerned. At 10:00 p.m. she went to Bobby Neal's home. She found his truck in the driveway and let herself into the house, which was unlocked. There was no evidence of anything being amiss, but she noticed that Bobby Neal's glasses, which he wore everywhere, were lying on a table in his room. Alarmed, Mrs. Langston called the Lawrence County Sheriff's office, which in turn organized a search effort for the missing trio. For ten days there was no evidence of their whereabouts.

On February 6, 1981, a man on his way to a fishing hole discovered Amanda Joy's body. It was lying approximately ten feet away from a logging road branching off old highway 27 in Lawrence County. The area where the body lay was not visible from the main road because it was down in a hollow.

Amanda Joy's body was clothed in a tee-shirt and pants that were either pajamas or the bottoms of a warmup suit. She was wearing no shoes. There was a gunshot wound in the area of her abdomen, bruises about her face and head, evidence of manual strangulation, and bruises and lacerations about her left wrist. The State pathologist testified that her wound would not have caused instant death and that she could have lived between five minutes and one-half hour after being shot.

On the date the body was found, investigating officers, in an attempt to find leads in the case, showed a picture of the defendant to Kenneth Hoffman, who owned Della's Motel in Brookhaven. Hoffman told the officers that the man looked familiar. He then looked through his registration file and found a card that he had filled out for the defendant between 6:45 and 7:00 A.M. on January 24, 1981. Hoffman told the officers that Neal was driving a green Ford Torino.

On March 6, 1981, Howard Monteville Neal was arrested for shoplifting in Stockton, California. Police officials there ran a routine teletype check on Neal. They discovered that Neal was wanted in Mississippi for questioning in connection with the homicides of Bobby Neal, Amanda Joy Neal, and Melanie Sue Polk.

After substantial interrogation (which will be described in more detail in connection with the issue regarding the suppression of the confession), Neal told Stockton Police Sergeant Wilson Stewart what had happened. In Stewart's words:

Mr. Neal said that he drove to Brookhaven from Texas where he lived, and he said that he got into Brookhaven on a Sunday morning, maybe about 6 o'clock in the morning, and he stopped at this little motel and left his wife there, and that he went on over to his brother, Bobby's place. He said that he got over there maybe around 9 o'clock, and he said that he was there at the house for maybe a little over an hour; that when he got to the house, that Bobby was there, and that Bobby's daughter Amanda Joy was there, and then there was a niece, a younger girl that was there. He said that he left that place with Bobby and the two girls to go for a ride in his car, which was a little green Ford that he was driving, and that's the one that he was driving at the time that he was in Stockton. He said that when he left the house with them that they were accompanying him of their own free will; that Bobby rode in the back seat, and the two girls rode in the front seat of the car with him. He said that he started driving in the car, and that Bobby got upset because he started playing with the leg of one of the girls, Amanda Joy, and he said when Bobby got upset that he stopped the car. He at first told me that he was in a tree area, and that the two girls stayed in the car, and he got out with Bobby and went for a walk, and he had this gun with him. He later changed that to the fact that he was at a gravel pit area, and that he left the girls in the car, and he walked a short distance with Bobby. He said that he shot Bobby, and--


A. He said that he had left the car with Bobby; that he had left the two girls in the car, and I asked him at that time if the two girls had been restrained in any way or for what reason would they have stayed in the car, and he said that he didn't restrain them in any way; that he told them that he was going for a walk with Bobby. He said that after he shot Bobby and returned to the car--I asked him if the girls had said anything about hearing the shot, and he said that they did say they had heard the shot, and he explained to them that he had shot the gun into the air. He explained that he had shot the gun into the air; that Bobby had been told by him to go on home, and he said the girls seemed to accept that. I asked him why they would believe that since Bobby was so far from home, and he said, "Well, I thought they did believe, and I left that area with them in the car." He said that--I asked them were they upset about the fact that Bobby would have had his hands tied, and he said Bobby didn't have his hands tied at any time, and he didn't tie them, and they were not tied, and that the girls didn't see his hands tied. He then said that he went on to this other area with the girls, and that he parked his car off the roadway in this tree area; that he put a blanket out along side the ground and that he was on the blanket with Amanda Joy. He said that he was playing around with her a little bit; that he had sexual intercourse with her; that she was cooperative with him, and I asked him where the other girl was at this time, if she was being restrained in any way, and he said that she sat in the car, and just sat in the car on her own. He said that when he got through having sexual intercourse with Amanda Joy, that she put her clothes on and got back in the car, and he told her that he was going to have sexual intercourse with the smaller girl, and that she sat in the car while he got out on the blanket with the other girl. He said that he started to do this, and then stopped and let the girl put her clothes back on, and then he had both girls get out of the car. He said that he shot Amanda Joy in what he thought was in the area of the chest, that she was standing up right by the other little girl. He said that when he did this, that the other little girl screamed and so he turned toward her and shot her. I asked him if both girls were together at this time, and he said yes. I told him that my understanding was that the--one of the girls was a little distance away, and he said the only way that that little girl could have gotten away from the other one was is if she had crawled away on her own because they were together at the time that he shot them. He said that he got back in the car and then he drove back to the motel and picked up his family at the motel and drove back through Jackson and across the stateline on the Interstate from Jackson and went back to Texas.


On August 3, 1981, Howard Monteville Neal, defendant below and appellant here, was formally charged with the capital murder of Amanda Joy Neal while he was engaged in the kidnapping of Amanda Joy Neal contrary to Miss.Code Ann Sec. 97-3-19(2)(e) (Supp.1983). Neal entered a plea of not guilty. On October 30, 1981, the Circuit Court ordered venue changed from Lawrence County to Lamar County.

On the morning of February 2, 1982, the case was called for trial in the Circuit Court of Lamar County, Mississippi. The trial lasted for two days. On February 4, 1982, the jury returned a unanimous verdict that Neal was guilty as charged in the indictment.

Thereafter, on the same day, Howard Monteville Neal was put to trial on the question of sentence. The jury by its verdict found that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances and that Neal should be put to death in the manner prescribed by law. From this conviction and sentence, Neal appeals.


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