A little more than 14 years after Bowling Green social worker Carol Neal was reported missing, Bowling Green police have obtained a murder warrant against her estranged husband, Leland B. Neal Jr.
Leland Neal, formerly of Monticello, was last seen crossing the Mexican border in 2008, Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron said.
“Once we realized he had fled to Mexico, some additional information that I can’t comment on came forward,” Cohron said. “When we looked at the arrest warrant affidavit ... looking at its entirety, my office felt that the investigation was at a stage where charges needed to be filed.”
Carol Neal’s body has never been found. However, hikers in McCreary County found a portion of her skull in 2003 on Parker’s Mountain in a densely wooded area inside the Daniel Boone National Forest, where the Neals frequently hiked, according to the arrest affidavit. Forensic tests confirmed that the skull was Carol Neal’s.
Leland Neal proposed to Carol Neal on Parker’s Mountain.
About three months before her death, Carol Neal filed a domestic violence report against Leland Neal, according to the affidavit.
Carol Neal’s friends and a relative told police after her death that Carol Neal had been afraid of her husband. Carol Neal’s friends also told police that Carol Neal said Leland Neal had threatened to kill her and place her body somewhere it would never be found, according to the 28-page affidavit written by recently retired Bowling Green Police Department Detective Barry Raley. One of those same friends also told police that Carol Neal had confided in her that Leland Neal sexually assaulted his wife.
Tony Sawyer, who is listed in the affidavit as a friend of Carol Neal’s, reported her missing Nov. 10, 1998, after he visited her home at 1005 Shawnee Way and found her two children, ages 5 and 15 months at the time, home alone.
Neal’s 5-year-old son showed Sawyer the living room where couch pillows were missing from the sofa and blood stained the wall, ceiling and floor, according to the affidavit.
Sawyer began to clean the living room and later called police. A Warren Circuit Court jury convicted Sawyer on Dec. 18, 2002, of tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Sawyer was never charged with any other crime in Neal’s disappearance, and Cohron does not expect any new charges against Sawyer.
“This case is an example of the culmination of tenacity in a number of detectives who have worked on this case, with Detective Raley being the most recently assigned detective to this case,” Bowling Green police Chief Doug Hawkins said.
“We don’t let the passage of time be a deterrent to our desire to bring those who have committed heinous crimes to justice,” he said.
Carol and Leland Neal were separated at the time of her death and had been since July 31, 1998. The two had been scheduled for a court hearing Nov. 12, 1998, to set a date for divorce proceedings. Carol Neal filed for divorce in August 1998, and in October 1998 the couple agreed to joint custody of their two boys.
“Carol Neal memorialized in a journal in her own handwriting several events leading up to her death that show her relationship with Leland B. Neal, Jr. was over and that the ensuing divorce and child custody issues were causing mounting stress and tension,” according to the affidavit.
Leland Neal was the only beneficiary of a $50,000 life insurance policy on Carol Neal, according to the affidavit.
“The totality of the circumstances finally brought us to this point,” Cohron said.
“We wanted to get the arrest warrant issued to hopefully enlist the service of federal agencies with him being or last known to be in Mexico,” he said.
Neal had $5,400 in cash on him when he entered Mexico by bus on Jan. 29, 2008, according to the affidavit. There is no record of him re-entering the United States.
“We expect for the case to proceed to the Warren County grand jury shortly,” Cohron said.