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Linda McNeil is a tough woman.
A professional bassist from a rough part of North Philadelphia, she pays the bills between gigs by doing odd construction jobs and says she once fought off an attacker with a pair of nunchakus.
But in August 2005, when McNeil got a phone call from a stranger asking her to kill his wife, she was caught off guard. She was no killer. The client, however, seemed intent on going forward with his plot — and it soon became clear that McNeil was the only thing standing between him and his would-be victim. How far was she willing to go to save a stranger’s life?
McNeil comes from a rough background, according to “Murder for Hire” on Oxygen.
Growing up “was very difficult,” she told producers. “I came along during a time of like, let’s say, gang wars, rivalries.”
To survive, McNeil devoted herself to two passions: music and martial arts. While her Ibanez bass guitar helped her keep sane, McNeil’s skill with a pair of nunchakus had more practical applications.
“There was one instance where I was riding my bike, and I saw this gentleman step down off the step,” McNeil said in an interview with NBC News. “He had a board in his hand, and as I passed him, he hit me across the back. Knocked me off the bike. And luckily, I had my nunchakus around my neck, but they didn’t fly off. I got up and — you know, click-clack for a few minutes. And I got my bike.”
It was McNeil’s knack for martial arts that caught the eye of a man she was doing construction for, according to NBC News.
McNeil was having a lean month, and apparently in the three days she worked with her client, he sized her up as a person willing to get her hands dirty for a buck. This was how, a couple weeks later, McNeil found herself on the phone with a man making a rather extreme request.
“The gentleman on the other line said, ‘Hi, my name is Manny, and you don’t know me but you came highly recommended,’” McNeil told producers. “’I want you to kill my wife.’”
Joseph “Manny” White, a former drummer for the band The Stylistics, was cousins with McNeil’s client. McNeil told producers he didn’t say the name of the woman he wanted her to kill, but before she had time to react, he was already telling her he’d keep in touch and hanging up.
White tried to call McNeil back numerous times over the next several days, leaving pleading voice messages on her phone when she didn’t pick up, McNeil told producers. At first, she tried to ignore him. But she soon became convinced that White was serious — and that if she didn’t do something, he would likely either find another hit person or kill the woman himself.
“It was very chilling as the days went on,” McNeil told producers. “If he really wants to kill his wife, I have to try to help her.”
McNeil went to the cops.
Investigators were initially skeptical of her claims, but as she played the messages White left on her phone, they slowly came to believe her. After doing some research, investigators connected some details White had given McNeil to a woman he was involved with — not his wife, but his ex, Cheneta Yates, who had filed for a restraining order against him. She was the target.
Police knew they had to act fast. Standard procedure would be to send in an officer to pose as a hit person and gather more evidence against White on tape. But there was a problem: White knew McNeil’s voice.
“We had to make a choice,” Detective Bob Kerwin told producers. “It was Linda, or somebody dies. We had a conversation with Linda, we said, ‘Would you be willing to put yourself out there?’”
McNeil said yes. Bugged with a camera and with numerous undercover cops nearby, she agreed to meet with White in person to record his demands.
“Good old cut-up job,” White told McNeil, according to police tapes acquired by “Murder for Hire.” “I want her s--t cut with, with blood just every f--king way.”
White promised to pay McNeil $5,000 after the murder, but could only give her $20 for “gas money” at the moment.
Police arrested White shortly after that conversation. He was sentenced to four and a half to 10 years in prison, and was released in 2018.
For the whole story of McNeil’s unexpected role in the sting operation, tune into “Murder for Hire,” airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen.
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