Authors: Edna Buchanan
Tags: #"BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY/Editors, Journalists, Publishers"
Wayman Neal did not look like one of Miami's most dangerous men. He looked like a nice, sweet, docile old gentâsomebody's grandfatherâuntil you put a knife in his hand. The last time Miami police arrested Wayman Neal he was attending a prayer meeting. They charged him with murderâagain.
The bloody knife was in his pocket
He did not run or resist. He could not run or resist. He walked slowlyâwith a cane. He was either seventy or seventy-four years old, depending on which records are correct. In court he was humble, sober and soft-spoken. He wore a blue baseball cap, a Grateful Dead T-shirt and bib overalls.
The saga of Wayman Neal is a story about our criminal justice system: how it works, how it malfunctions and what happens when a criminal is poor and black and his victims are the same. It is a story of half-hearted prosecutions, frightened witnesses and forgiving victims.
The criminal record of Wayman Neal begins with murder in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1938. Forty-two years later, in Miami, in 1980, it was murder again. This time there was a difference: The victim was white. All the others had been black, like Wayman Neal.
No one is sure how many victims there are. In just four years in Miami he was charged ten times.
“He has stabbed strangers he never met before in his life,” Miami Homicide Detective Bruce Roberson told me in awe.
Wayman Neal failed to finish grade school. As a young man, he left his father's farm in Quitman, Georgia, to seek work. Unemployed laborer or bricklayer was the occupation he listed on arrest reports. His family heard nothing from him until his 1938 “trouble” in St. Pete.
“We got the news that he cut a man, and the man died,” said younger brother, Peter Neal, sixty-two. “He's quiet when he's not drinking. But when he drinks
Few records remain of the 1938 murder. A jury in St. Petersburg agreed that “on the 16th day of April, 1938, Wayman Neal did inflict mortal wounds in an assault on Willie Williams with a knife.” Willie Williams was black, unmarried, about thirty. On his death certificate both birthplace and relatives are listed as unknown.
A judge sentenced Wayman Neal to twenty years. Richard Patrick Moore, the 1980 victim, was three years old at the time.
Neal was paroled in 1943. Parole revoked, he was sent back to prison in 1947. He was released in 1955, then arrested for larceny in 1958. He served sixty days for assault in 1960, was acquitted of robbery in 1961 and then arrested again for shooting a thirty-year-old woman in the foot. “Just horseplay,” he explained.
A St. Pete policeman wrote in a file: “He has been known to claim that he has killed before and wouldn't mind doing it again.”
Wayman Neal never married, but there was a woman. Her name was Gladys Harris. They lived together in St. Petersburg until a day in 1966 when Gladys and her friend Beatrice Scott, fifty-four, locked him out of the house. Enraged, he sliced open the screen with a knife and stepped inside. Gladys got away.
Police found broken furniture, blood on the walls and Beatrice Scottâstabbed nine times in the back.
She survived. Neal did three years in prison.
On January 19, 1970, Neal walked up to Willis Harvey, sixty-seven, on a St. Petersburg street, according to police, and carved a wicked six-inch gash through his upper lip. They found a Kutmaster hollow super-edged knife stashed in Wayman Neal's right shoe. Harvey failed to appear in court, and prosecution was dropped.
That summer of 1970, Wayman Neal walked into St. Petersburg police headquarters and asked to be jailed for his own protection. He said a woman named Mary wanted to shoot him.
An agreeable police officer locked him up for vagrancy, noting that Neal was “just somebody with no money and no place to stayâor a mental case.”
Despite forty-two years of violence, no judge ever ordered a psychiatric examination for Wayman Neal. He walked into a police station asking to be arrested again in 1971. Police obliged.
Wayman Neal was first noticed in Dade County at 4:35
. on October 18, 1975.
Peter Roy Rivers, fifty, sat with Neal, quaffing cool ones on a wooden bench at the Store Porch, an aged row of peeling bars and shops. Claiming the man snatched his drink, Wayman Neal rose and pulled two knives.
“He was stabbing, with a knife in each hand,” a witness said.
Police found Rivers bleeding in the gutter. Bystanders said the attacker, wearing a blue cap, had strolled into a bar across the street. Inside, wearing a blue cap and holding two blood-stained knives, stood Wayman Neal.
An ambulance rushed Rivers to a hospital in critical condition, his scalp nearly severed. Four stab wounds had pierced his back and two his chest. A long slice to the side penetrated his intestines, liver, spleen and pancreas.
Wayman Neal was charged with assault with intent to commit murder. Rivers failed to appear at a preliminary hearing. The prosecutor said the man was out of the hospital and had been notified. A judge dismissed the charges for lack of prosecution.
Less than a month later, Wayman Neal angrily confronted two policemen, demanding to go to jail. They said they had no reason to arrest him, so he gave them one by shouting and threatening to hurt people.
On May 18, 1977, Neal sent a pal on an errand. J. B. Williams returned with a bottle of wine and change from a five-dollar bill. Neal insisted he had given the man two five-dollar bills. They fought. Williams was stabbed. Neal was arrested a block away. That case was dropped after Williams signed a paper stating he had no wish to press charges.
On April 3, 1979, Neal snatched a table knife in a Miami rooming house, witnesses said, and plunged it into the neck of fellow boarder William Fry, fifty-six. Another boarder, Curtis Driggers, fifty-three, stood up to protest. Neal stabbed him, too, and slammed him over the head with a chair.
The injured men went to the hospital. Wayman Neal went to jailâbut not for long. When I asked the prosecutor why, he could not recall the case, even after reviewing the file.
“It must have been fairly insignificant,” he said, because he had reduced the charges to a misdemeanor. Neal was sentenced to time served: sixteen days in jail.
Stabbed next was Donald Darling, thirty-nine. Without provocation, according to witnesses, Neal slashed Darling's face and left arm with a razor-sharp Barlow knife on July 13, 1979. Darling required plastic surgery on his nearly severed lip.
“I didn't cut him bad enough to die,” Neal indignantly told police who arrested him. “I wish I had cut him on the neck.”
The maimed victim failed to appear at three pretrial conferences. He telephoned the state attorney's office to leave a message. He was in the hospital “next to the jail” and unable to attend. The prosecutor did not find him listed as a patient at either of two hospitals near the jail. His home phone had been disconnected, and he failed to reply to two Mailgrams. Charges were dismissed.
Wayman Neal was back on the wooden bench at the Store Porch at eight
. on September 7, 1979. The victim: Moses Shands, seventy-six. The knife blade laid open eighteen inches of thigh. Shands pointed Neal out to police. They found a knife in his pocket. Shands went to the hospital. Wayman Neal went to jailâbriefly. Three weeks later: case dismissed. The victim “failed to appear in our office for the third straight time,” a prosecutor explained.
. on November 3, Wayman Neal stood on a downtown Miami street comer, mad as hell about his Social Security check. It was missing, he said. He blamed James Yancey, fifty-four. He stabbed him in the back and cut his left arm and right wrist.
Again the charge was reduced from felony to misdemeanor and later dropped.
Wayman Neal was arrested four times that December, for sleeping on public property and loitering in a park. Judges released him each time, often the same day.
For two months Wayman Neal was not arrested for stabbing anyone.
When he was, the victim was white. The charge this time: first-degree murder.
Downtown Miami at dusk, January 22, 1980. Wayman Neal had been drinking. He accosted a stranger outside the Miami Rescue Mission. “You're wearing my coat!”
“No, it's my coat,” the startled man said. He was telling the truth. Neal angrily swung his wooden cane twice at the man.
On a ledge outside the Mission sat Richard Patrick Moore, forty-five.
“He was a good man, down on his luck,” his brother Jack said later. “He always liked to be a peacemaker.”
Moore grew up on a tobacco farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Once he had worked hard, but his father suffered a stroke and sold the farm, then his wife divorced him, and Richard Moore took to drinking and drifting.
On Miami's skid row, far from the farm and the family he had not seen in eight years, Richard Moore, the peacemaker, snatched away Wayman Neal's wooden cane as he raised it again to strike the man in the coat.
Moore walked around the corner with the cane, drawing Neal away from the target of his anger. Neal followed, looking like somebody's grandfather in a jaunty baseball cap. Moore peacefully handed back the cane, then walked away casually. He stepped off the curb and headed across the street.
Everything was over. Everything was fine. Then it happened.
Wayman Neal threw the cane down and darted into the street. Police said Moore did not see him until it was too late.
Witnesses said they saw Wayman Neal raise his hand and stab Moore twice. The knife pierced his heart.
Richard Patrick Moore, the would-be peacemaker, stumbled down the street and collapsed in front of a run-down rooming house.
Wayman Neal strolled back across the street, entered the Mission and joined the prayer service in progress.
A witness ran to a nearby firehouse for help. Paramedics worked frantically, attaching Moore to the “thumper,” a machine that performs mechanical cardiopulmonary resuscitationâ squeezing the heart against the backbone, pumping out the blood and forcing oxygen into the lungs. Delivered to the hospital at 7:17
., Moore was pronounced dead at 7:30
A witness accompanied police into the Mission, where fifty men were participating in the serviceâa requirement before receiving a bed for the night He pointed out Wayman Neal, seated four rows from the front. His prayers were interrupted.
“I stabbed him, but I don't know why,” he told detectives. The bloody knife was in his pocket.
A grand jury indicted, charging first-degree murder. Premeditation seemed evident; the confrontation between the men had ended before the attack. Yet a judge reduced the charge to second-degree.
“That last murder was an unnecessary death, a murder that shouldn't have happened,” said Daniel Insdorf, a detective who had turned in his badge, disgusted by the system. “I don't think it's entirely Wayman's fault. He's not stealthy. What more can a person do to get himself locked up? All the cases were dropped because nobody took the time or the effort to advise or assist the victims. They were indigent, they were injured, and they were ignorant of the criminal justice system. They don't have carfare. They don't even know where the courthouse is.”
“If someone doesn't want to come in and testify, we can't convict anyone,” a prosecutor countered.
“Wayman Neal shouldn't have been out walking the streets,” said Jack Moore, who took his dead brother home to Maryland. “If he gets out on the street again, he will stab somebody else. He will kill somebody else. He should be put away where he can never get out.”
The trial date was set, reset and postponed, month after month. Neal gained weight behind bars. He seemed robust and alert. A neighbor forwarded his Social Security and welfare checks to him at the Dade County Jail each month.
Many of the delays were due to plea negotiations. A public defender said he would plead guilty but was seeking an institution other than prison for Neal. Facilities for alcoholics declined to accept the defendant because of his advanced age.
The trial date was finally set for December 15.
But no trial took place.
The witnesses had disappeared. “They're just not the type of people you can hang on to,” the prosecutor said. “Other than the body, there is no physical evidence.”
The charges were dropped.
Wayman Neal walked out of Dade County Jail a free man. After eleven months of forced sobriety, he seemed to be thinking clearly. He acknowledged problems in Miami and agreed to return to Georgia, where his brother lives. His public defender raised enough money for a Greyhound ticketâone way. Wayman Neal thanked his lawyer politely and departed.
“I just hope he stays in Georgia,” the young lawyer said. “I hope he stays there and goes fishing, like he said he was going to do.”
The dead man's nephew, in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, did not understand. “It proves all the stuff I've read in the papers about Miami,” he said.
Interested in how Wayman Neal was faring, I telephoned his brother Robert, who lives in Quitman. Wayman, he said, had gone away, to Valdosta.
Last time he had seen Wayman Neal, Robert Neal said, “He'd been drinking.”
Murder is always a mistake; one should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner
The person most likely to murder you sits across the breakfast table.
Your nearest and dearest, the one who sleeps on the pillow next to yours and shares your checking account, can be far more lethal than any sinister stranger lurking in the shadows.
Caught with another woman, a Miami man quarreled with his wife, cried, “I'm going to kill us both!” and slammed his car into a concrete support column at fifty-five miles an hour. She survived; he did not.
A local electrician delicately attached wires to the wrists and ankles of his sleeping wife and killed her with a massive jolt of electricity.
The spark had gone out of their marriage.
Haven't these people ever heard of divorce?
Men are the usual suspects when love explodes into homicidal hatred. Women may experience similar pain, but they rarely resort to deadly violence.
There are exceptions. One Miami housewife stopped coloring eggs and shot her husband in the heart on Easter Sunday morning as he whispered to another woman on the telephone.
A prim retired schoolteacher hired two hit men to put her husband of thirty-four years out of her misery.
A policewoman fatally shot her husband's sweetheart and was killed as she struggled with him over the gun.
But most often it is men who hound, torment, terrorize and stalk. They pursue parties they once promised to cherish and protect, with machetes, rifles, shotguns, sledgehammers and fire-bombs. They even try to run them down in fake hit-and-run accidents. Some cases are so volatile that lawyers and judges hit the floor as irate spouses pull guns in divorce court.
What is wrong with these people?
Waving a gun will not force somebody to love you. Quite the contrary.
Where is Prince Charming? What ever happened to happily ever after? Why is it that a man who is unhappy with a womanâa man who may neglect, abuse or abandon herâ cannot bear to see her happy alone or with someone else? That manner of macho is decidedly unattractive.
No wonder I have become a conscientious objector in the war between the sexes.
Others would rather fight. For weeks, perhaps longer, Jose Umberto Mejia, fifty-seven, stalked his ex-wife with a pair of binoculars. No one is sure when he bought the .357 Magnum.
Maria Estelita Mejia Kossakowski, forty-three, and her ex-husband were in litigation. Mejia had left her four years earlier and returned to his native Mexico. She divorced him soon after. Estelita had married Jose when she was fourteen, and had given him six children; in return she got twenty-five stormy years.
After he left, she supported the children by operating a small schoolbus service.
Two years later she married IRS agent Ronald Michael Kossakowski. Her children called him daddy. “He was more a father to them than a stepfather,” a neighbor told me. “The children adored her and her present husband. They were a wonderful family, heartwarming and giving.”
They were happy for the first time.
Then Mejia returned to Miami and was not pleased at what he found. He claimed he had never been properly served with legal papers and was unaware he was divorced. He was shocked, he said, to find his wife married to an IRS agent.
He wanted the divorce decree set aside. He wanted half the home and half of her schoolbus service.
His ex-wife insisted that he knew of the divorce.
“She seemed concerned,” her attorney said. “Not for herself, but for the happiness and safety of the children.” She asked a judge to keep Mejia away from the house and the youngest daughters, eight and fourteen.
The judge sent them to mediation counselors.
“He was agitated that the case was not progressing more quickly,” his lawyer said. “He had a very hot temper. I think he was disturbed at not being able to see his two youngest children.”
“Mejia didn't want to accept the fact he had lost his family,” Metro Homicide Detective Rickey Mitchell later said.
Family members spotted Mejia lurking near their home several times. “A relative spotted him hiding in the trees across from the house,” Mitchell said. “They were alarmed.”
One night the family watched
, a TV movie about a doctor convicted of killing his family. One of the children spoke fearfully of her father. “It's like something he would do,” she said, with a shudder. His wife walked in, and Kossakowski switched off the set.
On Tuesday he told their attorney that he and his wife were eager to end the legal bout with Mejia.
Estelita Kossakowski worked three jobs: driving the schoolbus, working part time with a travel agency, and serving as a data processor on a four-to-eleven shift at Financial Federal Savings and Loan in Miami Lakes.
That Tuesday evening she telephoned from work to tell her husband where to find the Cabbage Patch Kid doll they sought for the eight-year-old daughter's Christmas present. He went out to buy the doll and hid it on the yellow schoolbus parked outside.
Something happened when Estelita Kossakowski emerged from Financial Federal shortly after midnight. Police suspect that Mejia was hiding in her white van and abducted her. They do not believe she willingly went with him.
The van pulled away. A short time later it ran a traffic signal, then stopped. Estelita was seen running away. Mejia leaped from the van and chased her. She fell and was shot, time after time.
The killer drove the van to the family's home in Hialeah, just two minutes away. Kossakowski, forty-one, had been jumpy, friends said. He probably would have been more cautious, but he saw his wife's van and opened the front door.
“Bingo, he was shot immediately,” Detective Mitchell said.
Shot three times at close range, Kossakowski fell dying. His body lay there, sprawled in the open doorway until dawn. Neighbors heard the shots at about 12:30
. Nobody called police. “You know how people are,” Hialeah Homicide Detective Lorenzo Trujillo explained.
The killer drove away in the white van.
Through the night, Metro detectives investigated the murder of the unidentified woman found dead in the street. They learned her name through fingerprints once taken when she had applied for a job. At dawn they drove to Hialeah to perform a police officer's most difficult task. They were going to tell Estelita Kossakowski's husband that his wife had been murdered.
The Metro homicide detectives found the residential street blocked off by Hialeah homicide detectives, who told them that Estelita Kossakowski's husband had been murdered.
The fourteen-year-old daughter had awakened at 6:24
. She had overslept. She dashed out to see why her stepfather had not awakened her as usual.
He lay dead in the doorway, in a pool of blood. She woke her seventeen-year-old sister. The two froze, staring at the body. Eventually they called for help.
Hialeah and Metro detectives gently interviewed the children. They learned about Mejia.
The detectives found Estelita's white van parked at Financial Federal, her purse inside. They launched a manhunt for the killer. It ended quickly. Passersby waved down the investigators to report a body, in a car, in a nearby parking lot.
It was Jose Mejia.
He had shot himself in the head. They found the .357 Magnum, extra ammunition, and the binoculars. He left no suicide noteâonly legal papers on the backseat. Mejia and his ex-wife were scheduled to meet in his lawyer's office the next day. The meeting, of course, was canceled. All the principals were dead.
“He wouldn't wait for the courts, I guess,” his attorney said.
Another vengeful killer fled Miami to elude capture, then returned to continue stalking his wife's terrified family.
Enraged when she left him and filed for divorce, Francisco Serra, twenty-seven, pounded on the door of her parents' home demanding to see his wife. Police arrested him. He was wearing a bulletproof vest, aimed with a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver and a pocketful of hollow-point bullets.
None of the above seemed to concern authorities, who immediately released him on bond. Serra insisted on speaking to his wife. She refused. So he took a shotgun to the grocery store where her younger brother worked part time. He blasted the sixteen-year-old high school student, then dragged the bleeding youth to his car and forced him, screaming, into the trunk.
All this in front of shoppers.
Serra drove off, then telephoned his wife's family. He taunted her mother. “I've got your son. You'll see him when I talk to my wife.” Police launched a frantic search, hoping to save the wounded boy. They found the car abandoned the following day, the boy still in the trunk. He had bled to death.
The elusive killer tormented the family and evaded police for eighteen months. He was finally arrested, as he slept in a car before dawn.
Even when the system and individuals within it respond, it is often impossible to save someone stalked by an obsessive lover. Sometimes good people get involved and are lucky to save themselves.
Haasen Zock, twenty-five, a Lebanese-born Burger King management trainee, and his German wife, Heide Marie, twenty-one, suffered serious marital difficulties. Alone in this country and unable to support herself, she continued to live in the same house with Zock, though they were estranged. One night he tied her arms and legs to the couch on which she slept. He raped her while holding a knife to the throat of their son, Mohammed, age three. She called police when he fled with the child. Zock threatened by telephone to kill the boy unless his wife spoke to him. She refused.
Police traced him to a Broward County pay phone. He shouted curses, pushed the barrel of his loaded gun into the child's mouth and drove away. The frantic pursuit involved police from two counties. Zock paused long enough to take another prisoner, a Miramar police sergeant, a hostage negotiator who tried to talk Zock into surrendering. Instead of giving up, Zock held a cocked revolver to the head of his little son and forced the sergeant to chauffeur them away in a squad car.
At another pay phone, the father took the gun from the boy's head long enough to dial his wife's number. The sobbing child was rescued when the hostage cop and other officers wrestled Zock's revolverâbought for $139.95âout of his hands.
published a photo, Haasen Zock surrounded by police officers as they permitted him to kiss little Mohammed goodbye. Hauled off to jail, Zock did not stay there long.
Judge Ralph Person appointed psychiatrist Lloyd Miller to evaluate the prisoner. Two days later, at the Dade County Jail, the good doctor found Zock “rational, coherent â¦ and competent.” He did not deem him dangerous.
Zock's attorney, Louis Jepeway, asked for his client's release on bond.
Prosecutor David Markus objected. He wanted another opinion and the police officers present if a bond hearing was conducted.
The prosecutor said he was never notified of a later hearing at which Zock's attorney called the events preceding his client's arrest a mere “family argument.”
Judge Person released Zock on a five-thousand-dollar bond.
Both parents went to Youth Hall four days later for a hearing involving the custody of little Mohammed.
Markus, twenty-four, and another prosecutor, Gregory Victor, twenty-six, were at Youth Hall on another matter. Heide Marie Zock approached Markus. She had wavered about prosecuting her husband on the rape charge. Now she was terrified. Her husband had already left the building. He had bought another gun, she said, and threatened her again. Now she was frightened enough to press charges.
Eager to take Zock off the street, Markus agreed to take Heide Marie directly to his office at the Metro Justice Building to swear out an arrest warrant.
They climbed into Victor's two-year-old Toyota. Victor was totally unaware. When Markus and a woman he had never met climbed into his car, he simply assumed she was someone who needed a ride to the Justice Building. As he drove his Toyota out of the parking lot, Zock pulled up in his aging brown Chevrolet Impala. He spotted his wife in the car with the two prosecutors.
“I knew as soon as I saw him there was going to be trouble,” Markus told me later.
Heide Marie ducked. “My husband! Get me out of here!”
“Greg!” Markus exclaimed. “Let's get out of here. I know he's got a gun and he'll kill us.”
Victor could not believe his fellow prosecutor. “Why would someone have a gun, and why would he be after us?”
He believed it when the young woman in the backseat began to scream hysterically.
Zock waved a gun, shouted something they could not hear and tried to force them off the road. Neither prosecutor was armed. Victor speeded south through dense rush-hour traffic at fifty miles per hour, making a run for Metro-Dade police headquarters. The prosecutor tried evasive action but a lumbering Metro bus blocked their flight, then wheezed to a stop in front of them. Zock rammed into the driver's side of the Toyota, disabling the smaller car and forcing it to the curb in front of a Cuban cigar factory and a coffee shop.
Zock ran to the passenger side of the Toyota, ordered Markus out at gunpoint, leaned into the car and leveled his gun at Victor. The young prosecutor raised his hands. He said nothing.
“Get out! Get out!” yelled Zock, struggling with his wife and trying to pull her out of the backseat.
She was screaming. “Don't let him get me. I don't want to go!” Terrified, she planted her feet against the door frame for leverage.
Unable to drag her from the car, Zock shot her there. Twice, at point-blank range, in the face. She died instantly. Zock turned and pointed the gun at Markus, staring him right in the eye.