LARGO — Hoeschele Thomas Jr. was 12 years old when his father was shot to death in 2006.
Five years later, he finally has someone to blame.
His name is Lloyd "Pooh" Neal and he's serving a life sentence for a 2007 homicide in Clearwater. On Tuesday, Pinellas sheriff's officials announced Neal also will be charged with killing Hoeschele Thomas, who was 48 when he died on Oct. 29, 2006. The news was bittersweet to a family that has spent years wondering who pulled the trigger.
"I thought they were never going to find who did it," Hoeschele Thomas Jr., now 17, said Tuesday.
The charges against Neal, 22, come after months of work by Detective John Spoor, who started taking a second look at the case in June. Spoor focused on the bullet casing found at the scene of Thomas' death. Investigators determined the bullet came from the same gun that was used in a Clearwater drive-by shooting that occurred about three weeks after Thomas was killed.
The victims in that case originally were uncooperative with police. But when they started to talk, one name kept rising to the surface: Lloyd "Pooh" Neal. Two people eventually told Spoor that Neal admitted to them that he had killed Thomas; a third person told Spoor he witnessed Neal shooting Thomas.
Neal, who was 17 at the time of Thomas' killing, was convicted in 2009 of first-degree murder for the slaying of Julian "Rat Rat" Kaigler, who was gunned down on Valentine's Day 2007 in front of Clearwater's Palmetto Park Apartments.
Neal was sentenced to life in prison and is at Taylor Correctional Institution in Perry. He will be charged with second-degree murder in connection with Thomas' death.
"He's a malicious individual," said Tempe Lewis, 43, Thomas' younger sister. "No heart at all."
Spoor, 41, said he wanted to solve the case because he knows families of murder victims suffer more when no arrests are made.
Thomas was a pipe layer with a local construction company, his family said. He had four children and three grandchildren. Sheena McDaniel, whose mother was Thomas' companion for many years, counted him as her stepfather and described him as a "hardworking family man." She began losing hope that an arrest would be made, but the news that Neal would be charged brought relief.
Sheriff's officials said Thomas was walking home when he was approached by people in a car who offered to sell him drugs. When he declined, an argument ensued.
Thomas was shot once with a .380-caliber pistol. He died at the scene in the 12700 block of 118th Street North in Largo, which was less than a mile from his home.
Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.