Is James Neal Dead or Alive?

11-year-old Linda O’Keefe was kidnapped on her way back from home in July 1973. A day later, her body was found in a ditch, and she had been sexually assaulted. However, the case remained unsolved for about 46 years before the investigators found the killer. CBS’ ‘48 Hours: Linda’s Story’ delves into the work put in to arrest James Neal in relation to Linda’s rape and murder. So, if you’re curious to know more about James and what happened to him after his arrest, we’ve got you covered.

Who Was James Neal?

James Alan Neal was born James Albert Layton Jr. in Chicago, Illinois, in July 1946. He was the second of three children but had a difficult upbringing. According to later reports, James didn’t get along with his family, and his parents were physically and psychologically cruel to him and his siblings. After a move to California in 1956, James started getting into trouble. His earliest crimes were breaking into homes when he was around 12-years-old.

James spent time in juvenile prison and later dropped out of school in 1963. He worked odd jobs as a cook, factory worker, a floral delivery person, etc., but could never consistently hold down a job. James was in and out of prison throughout his younger life, with arrest records in California, Florida, and Colorado between 1959 and 1974. After his arrest in 1966 for a burglary he committed earlier, his parole officer called him “quite immature” and “psychologically unstable.”

After the burglary sentencing, James moved to Denver, Colorado, where he was accused of stealing from the gas station he worked at. James then escaped from a work project where he was sentenced to and was arrested yet again in April 1967. Trouble followed James everywhere, and he was sentenced to 3-10 years for fraud in Colorado. He was released on parole in July 1971, and about two years later, the authorities believed he killed Linda.

The 11-year-old was taken while she walked back from school in California, with witnesses reporting Linda talking to a white male in a van. She was raped and then strangled to death. James lived in the area around the time and worked in construction. He then moved to Florida, and then, a criminal incident prompted him to change his name to James Alan Neal. Years later, the authorities developed a DNA profile from the biological evidence recovered from Linda, and that was eventually matched to James in January 2019.

How Did James Neal Die?

James Neal was arrested in February 2019 and charged with raping and killing Linda Ann O’Keefe. About a month later, the police brought additional charges of sexual assault against a child younger than 14. These were in relation to him committing lewd acts to a child in Riverside County, California, between July 1995 and July 2000 and then to another child between March 2002 and March 2004.

However, James was never brought to justice because he died of an unspecified illness on July 22, 2020. He was rushed to a local hospital about a month before that. The authorities confirmed that the 73-year-old showed no symptoms of COVID-19 and that his death was not considered suspicious.

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