Claiborne man sentenced in 2021 shooting death

Published 2:10 pm Wednesday, July 3, 2024

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Michael Neal Jr., of Speedwell, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to second degree murder in the 2021 shooting death of Jeffrey Warwick. The sentence was handed down by Eighth Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Zack Walden on Monday, June 24, at the Campbell County Courthouse.

TBI agents initially began assisting the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office in investigating the shooting at a residence in the 300 block of Powell Valley Shores Circle in Speedwell on August 19, 2021, at the request of 8th District Attorney General Jared Effler.
38-year-old Jeffery Warwick died as a result of the shooting. During the course of the investigation, agents determined that 42-year-old Michael Neal Jr. was the person responsible for Warwick’s death.

A  Campbell County grand jury indicted Neal with one count of second degree murder in November of 2021. He was arrested and booked into the Campbell County Jail on a $250,000 bond.
Susan Sharp of 1450 WLAF reports that as Neal’s murder trial drew to a close, he changed course and opted to enter a last minute guilty plea on Monday.

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“In a crowded courtroom, Neal Jr., of Speedwell, agreed he was guilty of killing 38-year-old Jeffery Warwick. Clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, Neal remained stone faced as prosecutors described the events that comprised Warwick’s last minutes,” she reported.

Prosecutors shared that the dispute between the men centered around Neal’s estranged wife, Mary Neal. The couple had been separated for months and even started relationships with others. But a tipping point came when Mary moved into a trailer jointly owned by her and Neal.

A discussion was had among the parties about removing personal belongings from the home the day before the shooting. Instead, she went to the mobile home with Warwick, locking the doors and settling in for the night.

As night gave way to morning, the texts and phone calls between father and son, Michael Neal Sr. and Michael Neal Jr. began.

The two soon made their way to the Powell Valley Shores home with Senior driving his car and Junior riding a four-wheeler. They parked 50 yards from the

Prosecutor Lindsey Cadle said both Neals were armed with handguns, which they traded.

Mary Neal was seated in the front part of the trailer as Warwick slept in a bedroom. Neal Jr. approached the home and began yelling. Soon, he was “beating on the door,” Cadle said. Within minutes, Neal Jr. fired the Taurus .357 revolver down into the porch. This was the shot that woke Warwick, a combat trained veteran. Mary Neal had already called 911 by that point.
Undeterred, Neal Jr. broke the glass out of a door. Warwick, armed with a .9mm gun, told him not to come in or he would shoot.

He then fired one shot, according to court records.

Neal Jr. returned three shots through the door of the trailer. Two of the shots struck Warwick. One went through to his legs and the “fatal” shot was to the back of Warwick’s head, Cadle said.

In the moments that followed, Neal Sr. confiscated all the guns and the Neals made several phone calls. “None of which was connected to the victim’s survival,” Cadle said.

She described the chaotic scene that occurred that morning as a photo of the crime scene came up on a screen in the courtroom. It was a graphic scene that depicted blood spilled onto the floor and splattered around the room. From the defendant’s table, Neal Jr. looked at the photo without blinking.

After Cadle laid out the facts of the case, Warwick’s family came forward providing a Victim Impact Statement to the court. Some of Warwick’s sisters cried as they entered while the others turned to look at Neal. Warwick’s brother-in-law, Eric Johnson, described Warwick as a “unique character” who was solely raising his Autistic son.

Warwick was close to his mother, who passed away as she waited for Neal to go to trial.

“Michael, she forgave you,” Johnson said as he looked Neal in the eye before the sentencing.

Walden sentenced Neal to serve 15 years at 100 percent in prison. If his behavior is deemed “good” by the Tennessee Department of Corrections, that can be reduced to serving 85 percent of the time.

Neal Jr.  also plead guilty on Monday to an unrelated charge of assaulting his girlfriend. For those charges, he was given 10 years, which will be served on probation upon his release.

Information for this story came from WLAF and WRIL.