On December 14, 1972 Bonnie Wheeler Neighbors of Benson and her newborn son disappeared on the way to pick up her oldest son from school in Benson. Three days later she was found dead at a vacant migrant camp outside of Benson. She had been beaten and shot twice. Miraculously, her 3 month-old son who was with her was found alive next to her body.
The 45th anniversary of the unsolved case didn’t go unnoticed by authorities last week, Last Thursday – on the anniversary date – Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said a tip was phoned in to his office giving cold case investigators brand new information in the 1972 unsolved murder.
Sheriff Bizzell would not disclose any details about the tip and the new information but during an interview on WTSB Radio yesterday with Carl Lamm, Bizzell said the tip led two of his detectives to Western North Carolina on Wednesday.
“It’s like putting a puzzle together. We get one piece then another piece then another. I hope eventually we can put all the pieces together,” Sheriff Bizzell told Lamm.
Bizzell hopes more tips or even a confession will eventually solve the case. “I hope the person who has information on this case, or the person who committed this crime, I am hoping it is weighing on their mind so much they will come forward and give information or confess. No matter how small it may sound, we run it down.”
Bizzell said investigators have been out of state two or three times since he authorized cold case investigators to reopen the case in 2007. Authorities now have DNA which wasn’t available 45 years ago.
In 1972, then Sheriff Raeford Oliver assigned two deputies to the case, Fulton Moore and Lemay Penny. Thousands of man hours were spent by local and state authorities looking for the killer but no arrests were ever made.
Anyone who has any information about the unsolved 1972 murder of Bonnie Neighbors of Benson is asked to contact the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office at 919-989-5000. Callers can remain anonymous.