Johnston County Sheriff makes arrest in 46-year-old murder case

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Thursday, May 2, 2019
Johnston County Sheriff makes arrest in 46-year-old murder case
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Johnston County Sheriff makes arrest in 46-year-old murder case

SMiTHFIELD, N.C. (WTVD) -- Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell announced an arrest Tuesday in a murder cold case that had gone unsolved for 46 years.

Larry Joe Scott, 65, was arrested Monday in Florida and has been charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in the 1972 death of Bonnie Neighbors, Bizzell said.

North Carolina investigators have spoken with Scott, who was living on the streets in Bradenton, Florida, at time of his arrest, but won't reveal what he's told them.

Larry Joe Scott
Johnston County Sheriff's Office

The case had been classified as a "closed case," until Sheriff Steve Bizzell formed a cold case squad and re-opened the investigation in 2007. During the past 12 years,the matter has been investigated and re-investigated, and recently the development of new technology allowed the resubmission of previously submitted DNA for testing. New technological advances identified the suspect and led to his arrest.

On Dec. 14, 1972, Neighbors,33, disappeared while on her way to pick up her 7-year-old son from school. She took her other son, not quite 4 months old with her.

Bonnie Neighbors was 33 when she was killed.

After a search that took several days, her body was found bound and with gunshot wounds in a migrant worker housing unit near Benson.

The baby was found near her body, cold but alive.

"I'm also thankful that we worked diligently to solve the case that I remember from the time that I was a 14-year old young boy, where an innocent young mother was murdered, and the baby left in her arms at a migrant labor camp near Benson," Bizzell said at a news conference Tuesday. "And that baby laid there during those cold December nights until he was finally found."

There is no known connection between Scott and the Neighbors family, though Bizzell said Scott frequented labor camps during that time period.

The sheriff's office said Scott used to live in Benson.

Bizzell reopened the case in 2007 and resubmitted evidence to the state crime lab.

The big break came when Scott was arrested in Florida, triggering a DNA connection.

"And through all those years, we have looked to find who had done it," Bizzell said. "And folks, I was able to look that little baby boy -- who is now a grown man in the eyes -- and I was able to tell him we have found and arrested your mother's murderer."

Scott is awaiting extradition to Johnston County.