New Book Raises Questions About 1972 Murder Of Bonnie Neighbors

By Emily Weaver
Dunn Daily Record

BENSON – A new book raises new questions in the 50-year-old murder mystery of a slain mother found with a crying baby by her side in a Johnston County migrant worker’s camp.

Bonnie Wheeler Neighbors was killed on Dec. 14, 1972. Deputies found her three days later, bound, gagged, blindfolded, beaten, shot and left for dead with no obvious trace of her killer in sight. Her infant son was found on the bed beside her, unharmed.

Bonnie Neighbors

Forty-seven years later, police arrested Larry Joe “London” Scott, a homeless man in Florida, claiming new DNA technology confirmed his fingerprints were found in Neighbors’ car.

But author and former journalist, Charles Heatherly, questions whether Scott was the killer or the fall guy in his new novel, “A Wrong Turn: Ends in Murder and Becomes 50-Year-Mystery.”

Wrong turn

Neighbors left her home with her 4-month-old son, Arthur Glenn, on the afternoon of Dec. 14 to reportedly pick up her 7-year-old child from school.

“… When she left her home, she should have turned right in the direction of the school,” Heatherly said. “Instead, she turned left in the opposite direction of the school and the milk man saw her.”

He waved at her, Heatherly said, “but she seemed to be preoccupied, didn’t respond and when she left the gravel drive, from her home, she was spinning tires and that was uncharacteristic of Bonnie.”

Why did she turn left?

“Bonnie was well known in town. She was a beautiful young girl. When the mayor of the town, Willie Hood, at that time, started his first business, she was his first hire as a secretary. And, later, she went to work for the chamber of commerce so in that capacity she got to know all of the leading people in town,” Heatherly said. “But the local sheriff, primarily, it was his duty to investigate the case, assisted by the State Bureau of Investigation. They quickly came to the conclusion that, leaving her home, she had turned left to meet somebody.”

Officers speculated she was on her way to a romantic rendezvous.

“This was the theory they pursued for 40 years,” Heatherly said. “In that process, they identified a person in the Benson community, who was an acquaintance of Bonnie and her husband, and they zeroed in on him as a target of interest for 40 years. He was a prominent person. He had a horse barn near where Bonnie’s body was found.”

A knot in the case

“Bonnie had been hit on the back of the head and remained unconscious. Then, according to a medical examiner, she was moved to a different location, moved to that migrant labor camp where she was thrown on the bed in a sprawling position,” Heatherly said. “Her feet were partly on the floor and she was on her side and it looked like she was trying to get up maybe to confront the folks that had done this to her.”

“She was tied in a very special way with knots that are commonly used by horse trainers,” he said. “When they want to hobble a horse, they’ll tie the horses feet where the horse can’t walk or run. … Bonnie was tied in that particular way. And that’s why they focused on this guy that had a horse barn nearby for 40 years.”

In 2019, District Attorney Susan Doyle announced that the person of interest detectives had in the case was no longer a person of interest, according to Heatherly.

Larry Joe Scott of Florida is escorted off a NC SBI plane at the Johnston County Airport in 2019.

That was the same year Scott was arrested in Florida and extradited back to North Carolina.

The car and the cold

Scott was reportedly tied to the case via Neighbors’ car.

It was discovered abandoned the morning after her death on the outskirts of town.

It was parked “on South Market Street, which dead-ends into I-95 today,” Heatherly said. “The car was basically undisturbed. It had no evidence of any struggle, no blood. It was just pristine.”

But something in the car led to a suspect in 2017.

That year, the state crime lab took advantage of new technology and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office was encouraged to resubmit their evidence from the Neighbors case.

The new analysis “led to a DNA profile that led to an arrest,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced at a press conference in 2019.

Heatherly questions whether Scott was Neighbors’ killer or just the man who took her car, though.

Heatherly

“There’s no question that he had something to do with getting the car back to town because his fingerprints were found in the car,” he said. “But, beyond that, I have not heard any evidence associating him with any other aspect of the crime.”

Scott never made it to trial.

“He adamantly denied having anything to do with it,” Heatherly said.

The 68-year-old was still awaiting his day in court when he died of lung cancer in April 2022.

“In my opinion, Scott was the scapegoat,” he said.

The way the case ended left Heatherly with more questions than answers.

“There’s a chapter at the end of my book where I list 30 questions about the case. And if you could answer almost any one of those questions, you could solve the case,” Heatherly said.

“A Wrong Turn: Ends in Murder and Becomes 50-Year-Mystery” is available for purchase on Amazon.




5 COMMENTS

  1. Maybe someone was in the backseat of the car holding a gun to her hence the reason she spun tires – maybe she was trying to draw attention to herself? We can all speculate this many years later. I may buy the book. I wasn’t even in JoCo at the time and I have never lived at that end of the county but I have always heard about the case in the news.

  2. I’m from Benson, NC where the murder took place. At the time I was only a year old. My parents were building a house a few hundred yards from here Bonnie lived. I also grew up with Glen, the infant at the time. I heard many different theories, speculations and people of interest throughout the years. I think they found the person and he was in the backseat of her car that day. But on the other hand sometimes I wonder will we ever really know?

  3. The author’s version of the case is pure speculation. He knows nothing of the criminal investigation, and this is his version of what he “thinks” happened. A true disservice to the victims family and continuing to spread disinformation information.

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