Details of Disappearance
McNeal was last seen on surveillance video walking away from his apartment complex on Northeast 41st Street in Oakland Park, Florida at 4:15 p.m. on September 20, 2021. His cellular phone pings indicated it was in Palm Beach County, Florida on September 21, but all phone activity stopped at 10:48 p.m.
He has never been heard from again. Police subsequently arrested Sophia Valdez and her older brother, Luis Valdez, and charged them with first-degree murder in his case. Photos of them are posted with this case summary. McNeal's phone records show his last call was to a number associated with Sophia, a friend he'd known since middle school.
Sophia told police she and McNeal had met on the day of her disappearance and smoked marijuana before he walked away and left without explanation. Luis denied having ever met McNeal Investigators determined McNeal had traveled to Palm Beach County to meet with Sophia on the day he disappeared, and she had picked him up at the Tri-Rail station on Lake Worth Road.
When authorities examined her red Hyundai Elantra, they found blood or a blood-like substance in it, as well as indications that someone had tried to clean up. When they searched the mobile home where Sophia and Luis lived together, they found a .38 revolver, a 9.mm semi-automatic pistol, and ammunition for both weapons.
A witness told police he'd witnessed McNeal's murder. According to the witness, the Valdez siblings and McNeal had left the mobile home park together to commit a robbery, and when they returned, there was a disagreement over money. Sophia then lured McNeal out behind the mobile home, where Luis shot him in the head and killed him.
The Valdezes, the witness said, wrapped his body in a blue tarp and drove it in Sophia's Hyundai to Palm Springs, Florida, where they put it in a dumpster. Sophia cleaned out the backseat of her car that night and she and her brother destroyed McNeal's phone.
The witness directed police to the exact spot where they claimed they'd seen McNeal's body lie on the ground after he was killed, and investigators found parts of a blue tarp there. The Valdez siblings' cellular phone records also corroborated the witness's story. Sophia and Luis are awaiting trial in the alleged murder.
At the time of his disappearance, McNeal was working for a travel agency. Foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.