Saturday, February 17, 2018
Public safety

Family of Pasco man slain in 2005 offer $25,000 reward

TAMPA — The 2005 murder scene is one of the most mysterious Hillsborough has seen.

There is no clear motive. Detectives don't know the precise location of the killing.

Likely no one even saw the bullet that pierced the driver's window and killed 49-year-old David Neel as he headed south on Interstate 75.

Still, maybe the shooter has bragged about his deed. Maybe someone has heard something — a friend, a relative, an ex of the shooter, said Cpl. Dale Bunten.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office needs that someone. So, on Tuesday, Neel's family — many of them public school teachers — announced they had pulled together $25,000 in reward money.

"This will hopefully be the incentive for someone that has good, solid information to come forward," Neel's wife, Debra Neel, said at a news conference.

The family is working with Crime Stoppers and says the money will be given to anyone with information that leads to the shooter's arrest. The tip must be offered in the next year.

At Tuesday's news conference, Debra Neel couldn't look at the poster-sized photo of her mustached husband displayed next to the lectern.

David Neel, a father and grandfather, worked as a security guard at the exclusive Avila subdivision in Lutz. He lived in Wesley Chapel and had been driving to Plant City to help the family show cattle at the Strawberry Festival when he was shot. He died before his truck veered off the road and into a tree.

Detectives believe the bullet came from another moving vehicle on I-75, between Fowler Avenue and Interstate 4 — a busy section of road that sees many out-of-state drivers.

"This person could be anywhere at this point," Debra Neel said.

Detectives have a hunch that David Neel was the victim of road rage. He was a cautious driver and may have been traveling slower than someone else liked, Bunten said.

"It's a theory," he said. "We don't know that, but it's as good a reason for why people do road rage these days."

The lingering case has affected Bunten, who drove to the scene as a detective on March 6, 2005. He noticed David Neel's phone ringing intermittently as investigators scoured the scene.

When Bunten finally had permission to go into the truck, he answered the phone. It was Debra Neel, worried about her husband.

Bunten has worked the case for the past eight years, following leads as far as Ohio and West Virginia.

"I'm very hopeful, absolutely," he said Tuesday. "I would love to have this one cleared up."

Families in murder cases sometimes pull together reward money, hoping it will lead to the missing piece.

"It's human nature: Most people tell somebody something," said Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon. "It only takes one piece that can lead to solving a crime."

A Tampa law firm offered $50,000 to help solve the murder of University of Tampa student Ryan McCall in 2009.

Temple Terrace police set aside $100,000 from Sandra Prince's mother's estate to entice tips in Prince's 2006 disappearance.

The families of Emilio Martinez-Rodriguez (shot in 2010), Cedric "C.J." Mills (2007) and Chad Lynch (2005) are also among those who have put up their own money to try to catch a killer. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

Neel's family members banded together to get this much cash, Debra Neel said.

"Twenty-five thousand dollars is a lot, but it's for David," she said. "It's for him."

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

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