02/17/09 — Suspect in child rape moved to County Jail

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Suspect in child rape moved to County Jail

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 17, 2009 1:46 PM

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News-Argus file photo

William Neal is escorted out of court during one of the first hearings in 2005 after he was named as the suspect in the 1987 rape that put former Wayne county resident Dwayne Dail in prison for 18 years for a crime he did not commit. Dail was later acquitted when a DNA test revealed he could not have committed the crime. Neal was already in custody when he was charged.

The man accused of committing a decades-old rape that landed the wrong man in prison for 18 years has been moved to the Wayne County Jail.

William Jackson Neal, 53, was jailed after having been held in a number of different lockups in the region on other charges. Before being moved to Wayne County's jail, Neal was held in the Maury Correctional Institute in Greene County before a stay in Pasquotank Correctional in Elizabeth City, according to state corrections department records.

The next hearing date for his case was not immediately set, court officials said. He is being held under $1 million bond.

Former Goldsboro resident Dwayne Dail was convicted of the offense and served 18 years in prison. Dail had maintained his innocence throughout his trial.

He was eventually released and pardoned after DNA evidence came to light that showed he could not have been the rapist.

The evidence wasn't recovered until years later, at the Goldsboro Police Department. A police officer who is now deceased had saved the evidence, perhaps believing there could be something more to the case.

There was indeed more to the case, and is now one of the country's more infamous cases of wrongful imprisonment after faulty eyewitness testimony.

Neal is accused of climbing through a 12-year-old's window and raping her in 1987, leaving behind DNA evidence on the girl's nightgown.

A person familiar with the case said that Wayne County District Attorney Branny Vickory has taken a pro-active stance in the Neal case, and had been trying to keep it moving through the court system.

Neal is being represented by Goldsboro attorney Charles Gurley. Gurley has not returned phone calls inquiring about the case.

Vickory said he could not comment on the specifics of the investigation, given North Carolina ethics rules for prosecutors.

Neal is charged with a first-degree burglary count, indecent liberties and first-degree sex offense with a child in the 1987 rape.

After being freed, exonerated locally and later pardoned by former Gov. Mike Easley, Dail has said he is just trying to adapt to life outside prison bars.

Dail now lives in Florida with his sister.