Advances in DNA technology help close North Myrtle Beach cold case

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – Authorities said they have resolved the case of a 23-year-old mother who was killed in North Myrtle Beach almost a quarter of a century ago.

Officials with the city of North Myrtle Beach announced on Wednesday that investigators have identified a suspect in connection with the murder of Shawn Neal. According to a press release, advances in investigative technology led to investigators reopening the investigation in November 2017.

City officials discuss their breakthroughs in the case during a Thursday morning press conference.

LIVE: North Myrtle Beach officials are discussing a resolution in the case of a young mother murdered in 1996 >> http://bit.ly/38pDPeH

Posted by WMBF News on Thursday, February 13, 2020

Items tied to the case were sent to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s forensic lab for DNA analysis. Analyzers identified a new DNA profile of an unknown suspect due to a sample taken from a blanket, officials said.

The DNA profile was put through a national DNA database and matched that of a man named Ronald Lee Moore, the release stated.

An investigation revealed Moore had also been named a suspect in a series of burglaries, unsolved sexual assault cases and a 1999 unsolved homicide in Baltimore County in Maryland, according to authorities.

“Review of these case files revealed striking similarities between Moore’s suspected victims in Maryland and the Neal homicide in North Myrtle Beach," the release stated.

Detectives did learn that Moore had friends in Louisiana that he would visit and it is possible that while traveling from Maryland to Louisiana, he passed through North Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand and committed the 1996 homicide, according to the press release.

“The newly discovered DNA evidence, together with other evidence, led NMBDPS investigators to determine that probable cause would exist to charge Ronald Lee Moore with the homicide of Shawn Marie Neal on June 2, 1996,” the release stated.

According to public records, Moore died while in jail in Louisiana on unrelated charges in 2008. Investigators with the North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety will close the Neal case, noting the only known suspect has passed away, the release stated.

“I really thought the case would be solved at some point, we had a lot of evidence,” said former North Myrtle Beach Chief of Police Phil Webster.

Webster was the first officer to arrive on the scene and found Neal dead inside the condo in 1996.

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Neal, of Leland, N.C., was found dead in a condo at the Windy Shores II Condominium complex in 1996. It was determined she had been rendered defenseless and strangled.

For years Neal’s mother Sandy Ames has sought answers to her daughter’s unsolved death and this week finally got the call she’s waited for over two decades to receive.

“Thank you for the long haul they had to go through to do this I mean a lot of time, a lot of people," said Ames.

“The NMBDPS sends its condolences to the family and friends of Shawn Neal. The department hopes the resolution of Shawn’s case leads the family to some semblance of closure,” the press release stated.

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