A Florida man has been arrested in the cold case killing of a North Carolina woman found dead alongside her unharmed infant after the pair was kidnapped nearly five decades ago, authorities said.
DNA evidence tied Larry Joe Scott, 65, to the murder of Bonnie Neighbors, who was just 33 when she was bound and fatally shot in Benson in December 1972, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell told the News & Observer.
Neighbors and her 4-month-old son vanished on their way to pick up her oldest boy from school, officials said.
After a lengthy search, three days later authorities found Neighbors’ body in a migrant worker home near Benson, a town in the county. She had been shot to death and suffered a blow to the head. Next to his slain mother laid the 4-month-old child, who was unharmed, officials said.
The case went cold, but investigators reopened it in 2007 and two weeks ago, they finally had a breakthrough.
DNA evidence once found to be inconclusive was retested by the State Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab with more sensitive technology, and those new tests produced a usable DNA profile, Bizzell told the News & Observer.
“This led to a profile and arrest,” he said.
Scott was living on the streets of Bradenton, Florida, when he was arrested Monday on charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping, authorities said.
At the time of Neighbors’ murder, Scott lived in the Benson area, but a motive in the killing has not yet been determined and no obvious connection between the suspect and victim has been found, Bizzell said.
Scott is being held in a Manatee County jail awaiting extradition to North Carolina.
“In 1972, I was only 14 years old, but something about Bonnie Neighbors’ killing and about this case always bothered me,” Bizzell told reporters. “After I became sheriff and in 2007, I was still haunted and continued to be concerned about Mrs. Neighbors and her sons, her family, and her husband being denied justice because the killer had not been found.”
Bizzell said he was finally able to bring a semblance of closure to Neighbors’ family with the news of Scott’s arrest.
“I was finally able to tell her son that we had found his mother’s murderer,” Bizzell said. “Justice had been far-too-long delayed for her. For all those years we had looked to find who had done it.”