Murder suspect spotted in Varnell, kicks off massive manhunt - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Murder suspect spotted in Varnell, kicks off massive manhunt

Posted: Updated:
Photo by Callie Starnes / WRCB-TV Photo by Callie Starnes / WRCB-TV
Photo by Callie Starnes / WRCB-TV Photo by Callie Starnes / WRCB-TV
Photo by Callie Starnes / WRCB-TV Photo by Callie Starnes / WRCB-TV

DALTON, GA. (WRCB) - A massive manhunt is underway in Varnell, Georgia for the man accused of killing his 27-year-old wife and her grandfather last week in Dalton. 

Murder suspect Sonny Neal has been on the lam since last Thursday, with authorities looking to question him in the double murder.

He was spotted around 4:30 p.m. by a couple who recognized him from the Dalton salon he and his wife ran. Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood, who called the sighting "99.9 percent accurate", confirmed that Neal was spotted near a home that has a "family connection".

Law enforcement agencies almost immediately responded to the Dollar General near Highway 2 and Highway 201 after he was spotted heading into the nearby woods.

Nearly a dozen different agencies, including DNR, GBI, GSP, Whitfield County Sheriff, and Varnell Police have all teamed up to assist in the search.  They have brought in tracking dogs and helicopters, including one equipped with infrared sensors to use at night.

Authorities believe that Sonny Neal may have a grudge and be in the area to confront a friend of his dead wife.

Sheriff Chitwood says the manhunt will continue until they feel there's nothing left to search. When asked if officers have orders to shoot if they sight Neal, Chitwood says that command has not been given.

Eyewitness News reporter Callie Starnes spoke with the couple who spotted Sonny Neal walking along the road. They say he looked clean, not like he'd been in woods since the murders.

Nearby residents are staying in the Dollar General parking lot for fear of going home and running into Neal. Sheriff Chitwood has warned the community to use caution.

Stay with for the latest developments.

-- Earlier story --

DALTON, GA. (WRCB) - The Whitfield County Sheriff hopes reward money will encourage someone to come forward with information about Adolph Ray ‘Sonny' Neal."

Sonny Neal is the husband of Jessica Neal.

Neal and her grandfather were found dead around 7:00 a.m. Thursday on Greensprings Road in the Dawnville Community.

Family members identified the victims as Jessica Miller Neal and Donald Shedd, who also lived at the residence, which was shared by Neal and her husband Sonny Adolph Neal.

Jessica's father said the pair have had recent troubles and that she was planned to divorce Sonny.

The couple worked together at the Dalton salon Dazzle, which Jessica co-owned. Jessica also was studying to be a dental technician.

A neighbor tells Channel 3 that a 9 year old girl came to his house around 7:00 a.m. and said, "My Papaw's dead and I can't find my Mom or Dad" The neighbor called 911 immediately.

Neighbor Wayne Warnack said he saw a man's body just inside the doorway leading from the garage, with blood "everywhere".

GBI agents and Whitfield County Sheriff's Deputies have been searching a nearby wooded area with a tracking dog.

The Georgia State Patrol is assisting in the investigation.

"We have recovered what we believe to be the murder weapon," Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood said.

He declined to reveal what it was, or what investigators believe might have caused Neal and Shedd's deaths.

"We do not have a suspect, but we do have a person of interest," Sheriff Chitwood said.

He declined to name that person.

Sonny Neal has not been found.

Late Thursday afternoon, investigators towed a white Hummer SUV from the residence for processing as evidence. They've not said whose it is, or how it may pertain to the investigation.

Shortly after 5PM, GBI agents swarmed the residence and began searching the pool house, where Neal's body was found. They declined comment regarding what they seek.



Powered by WorldNow
Can't find what you're looking for?

900 Whitehall Road
Chattanooga, TN 37405
(423) 267-5412

WRCB Jobs EEO | FCC Public Files

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WRCB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.