By Matt Wiley
More than eight years after his still-unsolved murder, the family of David Neel, a Wesley Chapel man who was killed while driving on I-75 in 2005, is offering a substantial reward for any information regarding the cold case.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), the Neel family is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Neel’s murder, which the family announced during a press conference on June 10.
“$25,000 is a lot, but it’s for David,” said Neel’s widow Debra Neel of the reward. “This is for him.”
Neel was discovered deceased in his crashed vehicle on March 6, 2005, not from the crash but from injuries sustained from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) troopers responded to a traffic crash on the southbound exit ramp of I-75 onto I-4. Neel had been driving his 1990 Ford F-150 pickup truck south from the S.R. 54 exit on his way from the family’s Angus Valley home to meet them at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, where he h
ad been earlier in the day.
During the investigation, a single bullet hole was discovered in the driver’s-side door of the truck. The investigation showed that the shot was fired from a passing vehicle, but no vehicles or suspects have yet been identified at our press time and the case has remained unsolved. The theory is that Neel was most likely the victim of a road rage incident, says Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Cpl. Dane Bunten.
“David was able to maintain control of his vehicle at least for a little bit,” Bunten explains. “He was able to take the I-4 exit, but lost control before the east/west split. He drove down an embankment and crashed into a tree.”
Bunten says that HCSO has followed numerous leads since Neel’s death, but hasn’t been able to name a suspect.
“In the process of following up on the investigat
ion, we have forensically followed leads as far away as Ohio and West Virginia to other similar-type shootings of vehicles on roadways,” Bunten explains. “We did the best we could to follow up on everything, but nothing matched up. We didn’t get a lot of positive leads. We do anything that we can do to find some commonalities.“
In cases such as Neel’s, Bunten says that the law enforcement agencies get together and compare evidence and leads, including the caliber of bullets used and the background of the victim.
“Over time, the family wanted to help give some incentive for someone to come forward with information and has come up with this reward, themselves. We have gotten a few calls (since the reward was announced), but nothing that has been extremely productive. There are some leads that we are following up, but we haven’t gotten ‘the call.’ It sounds odd, but that’s the call where the information is just too perfect.”
The Neels are offering the reward for a one-year period. Crime Stoppers also is offering a $1,000 reward for any information that proves to be useful. If you or anyone you know has information regarding this case, please call HCSO at 247-8660.