The murder of Debra Black Crow McNeal and her unborn child drew a lot of attention from San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson.
Also, on it: the California Innocence Project.
In March of 1997, Shantel Haynes faced the worst kind of tragedy. At the age, she says, "My mother was heinously beaten, strangled, dragged, stabbed, thrown in a bathtub and drowned and chemicals thrown on her body."
Shantel Haynes is now 37 years old. That’s two years younger than when her mom was brutally killed.
Accused and convicted in the case was Rodney Patrick McNeal. He was a probation officer for San Bernardino County.
The California Innocence Project states on its website that McNeal should be freed based on post-DNA evidence from the crime scene that was "inconclusive".
Shantel Haynes says, "He originally tried to say it was a hate crime because he wrote a racial slur on the mirror. From there he tried to blame my mother’s best friend."
Haynes says, a recently purchased $100,000 life insurance policy back in the 1990s by McNeal on his wife was the motivation.
She adds, "...he had already tried to cash in on the life insurance policy and he was already trying to cremate my mother immediately."
In 1999, McNeal was convicted of killing his wife and her unborn child. She was six months pregnant. He was sentenced to 30 years.
In November of 2020, McNeal was up for parole. The former San Bernardino Probation Officer was being viewed as no longer posing a danger to society. But Haynes and Anderson thought otherwise.
Anderson says, "We were concerned that he continued to pose a danger of risk."
He wrote a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom to that effect. He asked that McNeal be kept behind bars.
Haynes set out on a mission to gather an army of support, including a change.org petition. The District Attorney says, "She went to the tribe in South Dakota got advocates there... Senators in South Dakota... Tribal Leaders in South Dakota to encompass the record of this particular case."
With that and more, Haynes, the DA and others were able to convince Gov. Newsom that McNeal had a trail of domestic violence issues and remains a risk.
The Governor changed his mind and reversed his commutation decision.
Says Anderson, "We are pleased that the Governor has denied the parole of double murderer Rodney McNeal." We have reached out to the California Innocence Project for reaction to the parole reversal, but so far no reaction.