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McNeill's Confession May Be Used

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

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

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

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

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

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

No physical evidence ties McNeill to the murders, and the weapon hasnot been recovered. Hill plans to use the robbery conviction to convincejurors that he was capable of another theft.

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

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

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

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