Local News

McNeill's Confession May Be Used

Posted September 28, 1996 12:00 a.m. EDT

— When Robert McNeill confessed two murders to his wife a year ago, a prison chaplain was in the room. Now, Wake County prosecutor Evelyn Hill says she intends to introduce a statement from the Marion Correctional Center chaplain as part of her case.

McNeill, 28, is charged with killing two employees of the Food Lion at Six Forks and Strickland roads as they locked up on the night of September 19, l993. The victims were each shot twice in the back of the head. About $2800 was stolen from the store.

If Robert McNeill is found guilty, he could be sentenced to death. In April, his younger brother Elmer Ray, 26, was convicted of the crimes. He is on Death Row in Raleigh's Central Prison.

Robert McNeill has been serving 23 years at the Marion facility for the May 16, 1993, robbery of the Food Lion grocery store in Tower Shopping Center on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh. About $9,600 was taken in that theft.

At the time, McNeill was that store's grocery manager, and initially he was not a suspect. Subsequently, he was demoted and transferred to the Six Forks Food Lion.

After the murders, police got a tip that McNeill was involved in the May robbery, and he was convicted.

No physical evidence ties McNeill to the murders, and the weapon has not been recovered. Hill plans to use the robbery conviction to convince jurors that he was capable of another theft.

Although McNeill has insisted he is innocent of the Tower robbery, he told his wife Tamara he planned to take the money all along. The conversation took place Oct. 1, 1995, in the office of Chaplain Harvey Johnson at the Marion prison. Johnson was not a party to the conversation.

McNeill's attorneys are fighting Hill's intention to include the chaplain. What is said to a minister, lawyer or doctor is universally considered to be protected from use in prosecution. Hill, however, says that the office was used as a quiet place for a discussion, and that the chaplain was not participating in the talk.

A hearing will be held Friday to determine the admissibility of the chaplain's statement.