Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sheriff Reopens Unsolved 1972 Murder Of Bonnie Neighbors

(Right) The December 1972 murder of Bonnie Neighbors of Benson made headline news in the Daily Record in Dunn. Thirty-five years later the case is still unsolved. Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell announced on WMPM Radio on Wednesday the reopening of the case by a newly formed Cold Case Squad. (Below) (L-R) Sheriff Bizzell, Captain Buck Pipkin, Public Information Officer Tammy Amaon, and Detective Lt. Fred Dees review the Bonnie Neighbors case file.

Sheriff Steve Bizzell announced on WMPM Radio Wednesday afternoon the reopening of one of Johnston County ’s oldest unsolved homicides. The first case for a newly formed Cold Case Squad is the December 1972 unsolved murder of Bonnie Wheeler Neighbors of Benson. The 33-year-old mother of two disappeared on December 14, 1972 while on the way to school to pick up her son, Ken Neighbors III, who was 7 at the time. Her 3-month-old son, Glen Neighbors was with her. The search for Bonnie Neighbors, the wife of former accountant Kenneth Neighbors of Benson, began immediately. On December 15, her station wagon was found abandoned on Market Street in Benson. On Dec. 17 at 12:30pm, her lifeless body was found in a labor camp six miles south of Benson, off what is know known as Holley Grove Church Road . A farmer, Olen Lee, heard pleas on local radio stations for landowners to search their property for the missing woman. Lee’s son, Sherward, heard a baby cry as he approached the unoccupied migrant camp and ran back to get his father. Bonnie Neighbors infant son was lying unharmed beside her. Mrs. Neighbors had been fatally shot twice in the abdomen and suffered a blow to the head. She had been blindfolded and her feet and hands were bound with cloth baby diapers. For the first time in North Carolina history, the state medical examiner, Dr. Page Hudson and his investigator, Dr. Bill Brinkhouse, were flown on a state helicopter to a crime scene. “The case alarmed the community,” Sheriff Bizzell told WMPM on Wednesday. “People thought there was a killer on the loose. Folks were in shock.” Then Sheriff Raeford Oliver, assigned two deputies, Fulton Moore and Lemay Penny, full-time to the case. John Twisdale was the district attorney in 1972. Thousands of man hours were spent following leads, interviewing hundreds of people, and searching for evidence linking Bonnie Neighbors to her killer. Sheriff Steve Bizzell said the newly formed Cold Case Squad consists of himself, along with Captain Buck Pipkin, Lt. Fred Dees, SBI Agent Blane Hicks, former SBI Agents John Richardson, David Dunn, and the lead SBI case agent on the Neighbors case in 1972, Roger Allen. Former DA Twisdale will be an advisor to the Cold Case Squad. Sheriff Bizzell said new technologies are now available that could help solve old cases, including the use of new forensics and DNA evidence. Bizzell said his officers have plenty of work to do but added, “Everyone I have talked to feels like this case merits attention. We are going back to take a fresh look at this and maybe other unsolved cases.” A special tip line for anyone with information on the 1972 unsolved murder of Bonnie Neighbors of Benson has been established. The number is 919-989-5017. Callers can remain anonymous.


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