- REUTERS/Max Whittaker
- Shawn Marie Neal was strangled in her North Myrtle Beach condo in 1996, but her murder case was never solved.
- Over two decades later, her death has been linked to Ronald Lee Moore, a now-deceased man named in the ‘Serial’ podcast who was suspected of killing Hae Min Lee.
- Moore died in jail in 2008 while serving time for unrelated charges.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Shawn Marie Neal, a 23-year-old woman, was strangled and hung in her North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, condo in 1996 in a brutal homicide that shocked the small, quiet beach town and stumped its detectives for years.
Twenty-four years later, North Myrtle Beach police officers announced her case has been solved. The person they’ve connected to her murder is a man that was named in the popular ‘Serial’ podcast: Ronald Lee Moore.
“Serial” named Moore as a one-time suspect in the 1999 murder case of Hae Min Lee for which her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was found guilty. The podcast pointed out that Moore was released from prison 10 days before Lee disappeared, but despite speculation, DNA in the case did not link Moore or Syed to her death. Syed was granted a new trial in 2016 after the podcast gained national attention.
The South Carolina cold case is one of several Moore has been linked to posthumously. Moore was a convicted serial burglar from Baltimore, Maryland, who was also named a suspect in a series of unsolved burglaries, sexual assault cases, and homicides in 1999. In 2013, Baltimore police named Moore as a suspect in the 1999 murder of Annelise Hyang Suk Lee with a DNA test. On Thursday, police announced Moore was connected to yet another homicide.
“This crime shocked our community – crime is rare in North Myrtle Beach and violent crime of this nature is almost unheard of,” Greg Purden, North Myrtle Beach’s Chief of Police, said in a press conference on Thursday. “This morning we are announcing the closure of the investigation into the death of Ms. Neal.”
At the time of her death, authorities felt they had “exhausted all leads” and closed the lone cold case homicide in the city’s history. In November 2017, the North Myrtle Beach Police Department decided to reopen the case.
DNA from towels and mattresses in the condo collected at the time of the murder was tested against the national database, linking Moore to the murder. Mike Swarthout, the lead detective in the case, told Insider that advances in DNA technology were the key to cracking the last unsolved homicide case in the town.
“The physical evidence in the case was re-analyzed for possible DNA by the Richland County Sheriff’s Forensic Lab and two previously unidentified DNA samples were found,” Mike Swarthout told Insider. “Advances in DNA technology helped our department tremendously.”
Authorities say Moore had no connection to Neal or the beachside city. While they are unable to discern a motive, they suspect Moore was passing through the town on his way to Louisiana while running from authorities. Neal, who worked as an escort at the time, was called in for work in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Her partner called authorities when she didn’t return to her home in Leland, North Carolina. She was later found dead by authorities on June 22, 1996. She left behind a 4-year-old daughter, mother, and a fiance, according to police.
“This might have been him passing through – any motive about why he chose Shawn, I think it was random,” Swarthout said.
The North Myrtle Beach authorities said they have gathered enough evidence to charge and arrest Moore for her murder. However, Moore died in a Louisiana prison in 2008 for charges unrelated to Neal’s death, according to police.
Although North Myrtle Beach police were unable to arrest Moore, Swarthout told Insider that he was happy to finally give Neal’s family some long-awaited answers.
“I personally have been looking at this case since 2010 and re-opened it in 2017 and it became a passion of mine to find who did this,” Swarthout said. “While it would have been nice to arrest Mr. Moore and conduct a trial, I am happy that the hard work of our division was able to help the family get some closure.”
- Read more: