Teen's 911 call leads to capture of wanted murder suspect
VARNELL, WHITFIELD COUNTY, GA (WRCB) - A week-long manhunt is over.
The Whitfield County man accused in a double murder is in custody.
Thursday afternoon a passerby spotted 49-year-old Sonny Neal in a field off Highway 201 in Varnell.
Officers from multiple agencies responded.
Neal first attempted to flea, but then surrendered peacefully.
His arrest comes one week after investigators say Neal killed his wife and her grandfather in the family's Dawnville home.
The teen behind the 911 call that led to Neal's capture talked to Channel 3.
"I noticed a man with a red shirt and blue jeans in the field," said 18-year-old Zachary Wade, pointing to a field off Highway 2.
Wade was in the passenger seat of his mother's car when he spotted murder suspect Sonny Neal.
"Adrenaline started kicking in," he said, describing the moment he realized who the man was, "I was getting nervous, but excited at the same time."
"I grabbed the wheel and turned it to get her to turn around."
A second look provided assurance and Wade quickly called 911.
"About 20 minutes later they had him in custody," he said proudly.
Officers from multiple agencies arrested Neal 14 miles from where police say he murdered his wife Jessica Miller Neal, and her grandfather.
Neal's oldest daughter was among those first on the scene Thursday. She watched as her father was driven away in a Whitfield County Sheriff's Office.
"I love you daddy, no matter what I'm here and I love you," she yelled at the passing patrol car.
Sonny Neal was taken into custody just feet from where Dia Chastain spotted him Wednesday afternoon, launching a massive manhunt.
Chastain was a customer at the tanning salon Neal managed with his wife, Jessica.
"I was 100 percent sure," Chastain told Channel 3, "I never underestimated myself, because I knew it was him."
"He looked like he had sustained injuries that you would see with someone that was outdoors for a prolonged period of time," said GBI Special Agent Dan Sims.
Neal was taken to Hamilton Medical Center at his request.
His next stop is the Whitfield County Jail.
"Once we get him here and are able to conduct an interview hopefully we, as you will, be able to learn a lot more about the last seven days," said Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood, in a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Investigators say it's too early to tell where he was seeking shelter, if someone was helping him, or why Neal was still in Whitfield County.
They do know he had a connection in the area, and an ax to grind.
Family friends say Neal was targeting was his wife's male friend.
"He did worship the ground she walked on, but he was a very jealous man," said Larry Crider, a customer and friend of the couple, "and I guess he had something to be jealous of."
Whatever the reason, Zachary Wade is just glad it's all over.
"I'm just glad he's finally off the street," he said, "people around here can sleep tight at night and not worry about him breaking in, and the family will finally get some closure."
At last check, Neal had not been booked at the Whitfield County Jail.
He faces two counts of murder.
Channel 3 spoke to Jessica Neal's father and step mother today. They say Sonny Neal's capture is an answer to prayers.
The Neal's 9-year-old daughter, who found her great grandfather dead, is with family members.