Local Man Remembers 1972 Search For Bonnie Neighbors

One man who was part of a massive effort to find a missing Benson woman 45 years ago says new attention in local news outlets has brought up old memories.

A 21-year-old Johnny McLamb volunteered with the Dunn Rescue Squad at the time Bonnie Wheeler Neighbors, 33, disappeared. She was driving to pick up her 7-year-old son and then disappeared.

Following the three-day search, Mrs. Neighbors was found at a labor camp outside Benson. She had been shot twice. Her 3-month-old son, Glen, was found alive next to her body.

Mr. McLamb joined a massive effort of first responders from throughout the area and other parts of the state that resulted in the discovery of the body. He said the search started on a Thursday and endedSunday and needed as much manpower as possible.

“They put out a mutual aid call looking for people to help find her so that is why the Dunn squad was there,” Mr. McLamb said. “We spent the weekend looking for her.”

The effort also brought out large teams of law enforcement officers to assist in the search.

Mr. McLamb was on the scene to assist with communications among the different agencies, working part of the time in a van at the operation’s command post. He made contact with different members of the search teams as they went about finding Mrs. Neighbors.

He worked alongside his brother, former Benson Mayor Jerry McLamb, who was a member of the Benson Rescue Squad at the time.

The death was a Benson case, but Dunn was one of the first agencies to join them.

Johnny McLamb was one of the volunteers with Dunn Rescue Squad who searched for Bonnie Neighbors when she disappeared in December 1972. Courtesy The Daily Record

Johnny McLamb recalls when the victim’s body was loaded on a stretcher and then taken to a helicopter and flown to UNC-Hospitals for further examination. He said the young child, Glen, was taken to Betsy Johnson Hospital in Dunn where he was treated.

Mr. McLamb said now the experience of the search for Mrs. Neighbors only comes up on occasions.

“It’s been 45 years, so I don’t think about it a lot,” Mr. McLamb said. “Every once in a while it will pop up in headlines and I will think about it again.”

Several local news outlets have had special coverage of the murders since the time they first occurred.

When he does think about it, memories of community support come to mind.

“I remember that there was an entire wall at the old Benson Elementary School that was covered with food and drinks that people brought to give to those that were working to find her,” Mr. McLamb said.The case was reopened 10 years ago by Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell. He was a child in the county when the incident happened.

This week, Sheriff Bizzell said he had a new tip in the murder, but wouldn’t elaborate. He said the new information may involve people in other states. There is also DNA evidence which was not available in the past. In the probe 10 years ago, evidence ruled out a man who was considered a person of interest at the time.

Anyone who has any information about her unsolved 1972 death is asked to contact the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office at 919-989-5000. Callers can remain anonymous. Story by The Daily Record