Sister of Bonnie Neighbors wants ‘answers, justice’ in 47-year-old murder case
In 1972, Rachel Wheeler got a call from her mother. Her older sister Bonnie was missing from the small town of Benson.
“I got on a plane and came here ASAP,” Wheeler recalled during an interview with WRAL Sunday. “The next day they put us in the back room and told us she’d been murdered. Shot in the migrant farm.”
Wheeler’s sister, Bonnie Neighbors, 33, disappeared in December 1972 while on her way to pick up her son from school. After an extensive search, the mother of two was found slain in an abandoned migrant worker housing unit. Her infant son was found huddled next to her body unharmed.
Over the years there have been tips and possible suspects, but nothing conclusive.
“47 years. I had given up several times, but I have faith,” Wheeler said. “In (God’s) time it will happen. And it did.”
On Tuesday, the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office announced that they have identified and arrested a man in connection with Neighbors’ murder.
Larry Joe Scott, 65, has been charged with felony murder and first-degree kidnapping after he was arrested Monday, authorities said. He lived in the Benson area at the time Neighbors was killed, officials said.
Scott was being held in a Bradenton, Florida jail while awaiting extradition back to North Carolina. He was said to be homeless in Florida at the time of his arrest. It was not immediately clear when he could be returned to Johnston County.
An arrest has long eluded investigators and it wasn’t until the recent advent of DNA that authorities were able to finally name a suspect and make an arrest, authorities said.
“The reaction was finally, thank God. I’m so happy,” Wheeler said. “The happiness knowing who it was sort of went away...but now I want some answers and some justice.”
Wheeler said the questions are endless, but one rises to the top.
“Why? Why pick her? 33 years old? It doesn’t make sense,” she said.
But as Neighbors’ last living sibling, she’s determined to see the case through.
“I want to know a motive. I want him to talk. I pray he will,” Wheeler said.
She said she’ll keep pushing for answers. It’s what she’d advise any family searching for answers of their own.
“Do not give up. 47 years, this is done. A piece of the puzzle is done,” she said.
Authorities are unaware of a connection between the suspect and Neighbors.