A funeral home employee’s keen observations have led investigators to treat a 61-year-old Lawrenceville man’s death as a homicide, police announced Tuesday.
On Saturday, Gwinnett County Police Department officers were dispatched to a medical emergency at a home on Lexington Drive in unincorporated Lawrenceville after receiving a call from the sister of Ray Neal, who said she had gone to her brother’s house because he wasn’t answering “repeated phone attempts.”
When the sister entered Neal’s home, she found the 61-year-old on the floor of one of the bedrooms, a police report said. She “ran over to his body and tried to wake him because she thought he was passed out,” the report said, though called police once she turned on a light and saw blood on the floor and the wall.
Responding officers interviewed the sister, who said her brother had high blood pressure, liver problems and hepatitis C. She also told police her brother used to use crack cocaine and had stopped, but then started abusing alcohol, the report said.
During the interview, the sister also told officers she had last seen Neal on Friday, about 24 hours before she found him dead. She had dropped him off at home — he was drunk at the time, the report said — and told him to stay there.
That was the last she heard from him.
When officers responded to the sister’s 911 call Saturday, they found a “large amount” of blood on the bed and underneath Neal, as well as on bathroom walls and the shower curtain, the report said.
Because the scene “seemed suspicious,” officers secured the home until the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office investigator could arrive, though police were not sure if the blood was related to Neal’s medical conditions or a crime, said Gwinnett County Police Department spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera.
“Homicide investigators were made aware of the on-scene investigation,” Pihera said, but did not respond to the home. Ultimately, the medical examiner’s investigator determined Neal’s death to be from natural causes, and his body was released to a funeral home.
A funeral home employee who was examining Neal’s body questioned the investigator’s ruling, however, after noticing “suspicious injuries” on Neal’s neck, and on Monday, the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy on the body to determine the man’s manner and cause of death, Pihera said.
“Based on the results, the case is now being investigated as a homicide,” she said. “The injuries are now believed to be stab wounds.”
Police are asking anyone with information about Neal’s death to contact detectives at 770-513-5300. To remain anonymous, tipsters can contact Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS (8477) or visit stopcrimeATL.com.
Tipsters can receive a cash reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in this case. The case number is 19-066378.