Bonnie Neighbors Sister Wants These Two Questions Answered

Rachael Wheeler, the sister of Bonnie Neighbors, says the arrest of Larry Joe Scott in Florida this week is a step towards closure in the 1972 murder of her sister. File Photo

Rachael Wheeler Shares How Sheriff Bizzell Told Her Of Arrest

Rachael Wheeler of Four Oaks says she had spoken to Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell numerous times since 2007 when he reopened the cold case murder of her sister Bonnie Wheeler Neighbors. Neighbors was kidnapped and shot to death in December 1972 near Benson.  Her body was found in a vacant labor camp off Holly Grove Church Road in the Meadow community three days after she disappeared on the way to pick up her oldest son from school. Her 3 month-old son, Glen, was cold but alive lying next to his mother on a cot.

Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Bizzell and District Attorney Susan Doyle held a press conference announcing the arrest of former Benson resident Larry Joe Scott (aka London Scott), who is now 65 and living on the streets in Bradenton, Florida.  DNA was used to identify Scott as the alleged killer.

Visit From Sheriff Bizzell
Before making the announcement, Sheriff Bizzell wanted to notified Neighbors’ sister, Rachael, and Bonnie’s two sons about the arrest, before it became public.

“Steve came by Monday afternoon but I was gone taking a lady to hospital and I had BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) Monday night,” Mrs. Wheeler told JoCoReport.  “He came by Tuesday morning around 10 ‘clock and he had a big smile on his face as he was walking up to the back door. He came in and said, ‘Mrs. Rachael we have found the person.’ When he said that, I lost it. That was the reason for his big smile and he did have reason to have a smile.”

Wheeler who is now 76, was just 29 years old when the murder happened.  16,939 days later she finally knew who killed her sister.  And finally, she says it will help bring some closure for her and Bonnie’s two sons.

“It is much closer to closure for us.  There is a lot more that’s got to be found out, but it’s a giant step.  To know it’s his DNA 100 percent, it’s a giant step.”

Sheriff Bizzell met with Glen Neighbors privately Monday evening and together they called Bonnie’s oldest son, who lives in California, to share the news.

Bonnie Neighbors

Two Questions Only Accused Killer Can Answer
Mrs. Wheeler says she has two questions only Larry Joe Scott can answer.  “I would love to know why and if other people were involved.”

Wheeler said she nor any of her family knew Larry Scott. “I understand he lived in Benson in the 1970’s and was 18 when it happened. Hopefully we will get more information in the future, but I didn’t know him.”

“The next step for me is finding out why. I want to know why. Was Bonnie in the wrong place at the wrong time? I want to know why it was necessary for him to do this.  I definitely want to know why.”

“Bonnie loved her mother and family. She did not deserve this. There was no reason to take an innocent life. To this day people in Benson still talk about her … how she baked people cookies. She had a great reputation.”

Wheeler says she is thankful for the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney, SBI and State Crime Lab for their efforts and for advances in science since her sister was murdered. “If it had not been for DNA it would not have been solved. Thank God for DNA. I am praising the Lord. It has been a long time coming.”

Wheeler said Neighbors two sons did not want to talk publicly about the arrest of the suspect this week.  She said they are still dealing with everything that has unfolded.

The Letter
Rachael Wheeler said the last time she last spoke with her sister Bonnie told her how happy she was. “She was so happy that day.”

But it was a letter than came in the mail that she will remember even more.

“I went to Bonnie’s funeral and came home that day.  There was a letter in the mailbox addressed to me from her.  She had mailed it before she died.  She had found some dishes she wanted us to buy for mother for Christmas.”    Unfortunately Bonnie was killed before Christmas came in 1972.

“She had 33 years. It wasn’t long enough but it was all she had.”