A now-dead man who was discussed in the true crime podcast “Serial” has been linked to a cold case killing that occurred nearly a quarter century ago in South Carolina.
Ronald Lee Moore, a convicted Baltimore burglar who died in prison more than a decade ago, was identified as the killer in the murder of Shawn Marie Neal in 1996, authorities said. The 23-year-old had been strangled at a North Myrtle Beach condo on June 2, 1996.
Neal, a 23-year-old California escort, told her boyfriend she was meeting a man named Don Gibbons but never came back after arranging to meet with the man, WPDE-TV reported.
DNA evidence collected from a mattress and towels found at the crime scene connected Moore to the unsolved murder.
Detectives said they weren’t able to pinpoint a motive in the 1996 killing of Neal, who was in the area at the time on behalf of an escort service.
“I would have loved to ask him why, but I’m just happy it’s over,” Lieutenant Mike Swarthout said this week.
It’s currently unknown why Moore, a Baltimore career criminal, was in the North Myrtle Beach area, but authorities believe he may have been passing through on his way to Louisiana. Swarthout said that Neal’s family was “shocked” to learn her case had been solved.
Moore, who died by suicide in a Louisiana correctional center in 2008 while serving time on unrelated charges, had also been suspected of countless burglaries, rapes, and another murder in Maryland at the time of his death, the New York Post reported.
The petty thief had supposedly been released from prison 10 days before Lee turned up missing. But DNA evidence later examined did not match Moore’s — or Adnan Syed’s, Lee’s former boyfriend and the man convicted of her murder, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The Innocence Project, a criminal justice non-profit, had also previously suggested that Moore could be an alternate suspect in Lee’s death.
“Ronald Moore is certainly not the only other alternate suspect we are considering,” Deirdre Enright, director for the Innocence Project’s chapter at the University of Virginia’s School of Law, said in 2014. “Any number of people could have committed this crime. This is the beauty of scientific results. It’s not about who you like for it — it’s about who can be identified, scientifically.”
Syed, who was convicted in Lee’s killing in 2000, is currently serving life in prison. His bid for a new trial was struck down last year in a 4-3 opinion by a Maryland appeals court.
In 2013, separate DNA evidence also linked Moore to the 1999 killing of 27-year-old Annelise Hyang Suk Lee, according to Baltimore County officials. Her body was found in her apartment building by a maintenance worker. She, too, had been strangled to death, authorities said.
A number of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are currently investigating whether Moore is connected to any other open and unsolved cold cases.
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