Officer Husband Murders Pregnant Indigenous Wife And Gets Sentence Commuted By CA Governor
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On March 27, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom commuted the sentence of convicted killer Rodney Patrick McNeal, allowing McNeal to become eligible for parole. McNeal had been found guilty by a jury in 2000 for killing his wife, Debra Marie BlackCrow McNeal, and their unborn daughter, Samara. McNeal, a peace officer when he committed the murders, was initially sentenced to 30-years-to-life in prison.
Please consider supporting our family in our wish to keep McNeal in prison, where he should remain for the rest of his life, by signing this petition!
Debra, an Oglala Lakota Sioux woman who was very proud of her Native American heritage, was on month seven of her pregnancy with a baby destined to be named Samara. After years of abuse at McNeal's hands, a probation officer, she intended to end the marriage in search of a peaceful, violent-free life. Sadly, days before she planned to move back to Las Vegas, she literally didn't make it out alive.
On March 10, 1997, McNeal came home and viciously beat, stabbed, strangled, dragged, and drowned Debra. He then doused her body with chemicals, while she laid dead in the bathtub.
Days after the Murder
Rodney was ordered to leave the premises while the investigations were taking place but he returned the day after for their tax return check. It took convincing from Debra's sister for Rodney not to immediately cremate Debra and to send her body back to South Dakota to be buried in Pine Ridge Reservation with her family. During the funeral, Rodney only gave $27 dollars to the family for the services, demanded for a closed casket, carried a concealed handgun on his person, did not help bury Debra and his unborn daughter nor shed a single tear. He did however, immediately call the insurance company to cash in on the $100,000 insurance policy in which he was sole beneficiary on. He also confirmed that he had a girlfriend merge months after Debra was laid to rest.
The Court Trial
Debra had four surviving children, and Shantel Haynes was one of them. All of the children witnessed McNeal's domestic violence through the years and thus became witnesses at the trial.
The People vs. Rodney Patrick McNeal began 3 years after my mother's murder. After the jury heard testimony about how the motive for the murder was a failed attempt to make the murder a hate crime, the messy clean up attempt, the fact that he did not have any water or blood on him when he stated that he lifted Debra out of the water and blood ran down her face from her nose being broken, and the records of multiple domestic violence incidents, a sentence of one term of 15-years-to-life in prison for the murder of Debra, and a second identical term for the murder of Samara. McNeal was to serve the terms consecutively.
The Family Is Victimized Again
One would believe this story would end with McNeal in prison and Debra's family moving on through life. Unfortunately, this would not be the case. For the past 23 years, Debra's children have been fighting tirelessly against McNeal's constant attempts to place blame for the murders on someone else, appeal the sentence, and finally, convince the California Innocence Project (CIP) to look into his case.
McNeal has requested clemency in the past, which was rejected by California's previous governor, Jerry Brown, Jr.
Ironically, the California Innocence Project was unsuccessful in their attempts at getting McNeal's case re-tried.
You may be asking why the California Innocence Project would get involved in this case, especially when it involved a peace officer who had killed his wife and unborn daughter? That was Shantel's question as well.
Shantel learned in 2015 while doing some searches online that the CIP had started representing McNeal. Shantel contacted the CIP and arranged for a meeting with their staff in Las Vegas, Nevada. Shantel, along with her sister, attended the meeting, where they asked the simple question, "Why did CIP not reach out to the victim's family or those who could act as character witnesses of the convict when deciding to represent someone?"
Their response was ludicrous. "Even if Patrick (McNeal) is guilty, he probably won't be getting out, but we've invested so much in his story already, so we are going to have to just run with it."
McNeal Was Given Mercy Already
During the trial and when she was 16-years-old, Shantel had been asked if the district attorney's office should go for a death penalty conviction or life-in-prison sentence. Shantel had mercy on McNeal and desired to have him stay in prison for the rest of his life. She spared him death.
Help Us Help Others
By signing this petition, you send two messages; one to Governor Gavin Newsom in terms of his consideration in denying McNeal parole. The second is to invoke change in how the California Innocence Project, and other similar organizations, proceed with their work. There should be a law that mandates organizations such as the CIP to notify the victims of a crime when considering becoming involved in a case.
Victims and their families have the right to not become victims over and over again.
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