Local News

Robert McNeill Convicted of First-Degree Murder

Posted October 16, 1996 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Robert McNeill, the second McNeill brother to be convicted in the deaths of two men at a Raleigh Food Lion store, tried to fire his attorneys Wednesday, despite the fact he could be facing a death sentence.

McNeill told Judge Donald Stephens that he wants to dismiss his defense team and offer no evidence during the sentencing phase of his trial.

Earlier, he reportedly told his attorneys that he wants to die and asked them not to make any effort to prevent him from being sentenced to death.

The judge denied McNeill's request.

A Wake County jury took fewer than four hours over two days to convict Robert McNeill of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Michael Truelove and John Ray, both employees at the Food Lion at Six Forks and Strickland Roads in Raleigh. Now they are deliberating whether to sentence McNeill to life in prison or death.

McNeill, already serving a 23-year sentence for robbing a different Food Lion store in 1993, showed no emotion when the jury's verdict was read. His brother, Elmer Ray McNeill, is on death row for his part in the same crime. Truelove and Ray were each shot twice in the back of the head.

When Judge Donald Stephens questioned McNeill about his request that his lawyers not try to save his life, McNeill said that was what he wanted, and that the judge shouldn't "pretend like you're wanting me to have a fair trial now".

Shirley Myers, Truelove's mother, talked to WRAL TV5's Mark Robertsin the parking lot of the store where the crime occurred, after the verdict was read. She said she always thought Robert McNeil said she always thought Robert McNeill was the mastermind, and that the verdict would bring her some peace.

Roberta McNeill, Robert McNeill's mother, bolted from the courtroom when she heard the verdict. As she ran down the stairs, she said, "There was "no justice in Wake County today".

The same jury will reconvene Wednesday for the sentencing phase. McNeill could join his brother Elmer Ray McNeill, 25, on death row.

Prosecutors contended that Elmer Ray McNeill shot the two men, while Robert McNeill plotted the robbery and shootings. Elmer Ray McNeill refused to testify against his brother when called by prosecutors to take the witness stand.

The gun has never been found, nor have any witnesses been discovered.

The charges and trial have split the McNeill family, with another brother, Michael, testifying about what he said was an incriminating phone call from Elmer Ray five months after the slayings. The McNeill parents are siding with the accused sons.

Roberta McNeill said after Elmer Ray's sentencing hearing that shemightbe able to forgive Michael McNeill when she is a very old woman, adding that if Elmer Ray dies, Michael is dead to her as well.