Seven people were charged Wednesday with capital murder after they reportedly kidnapped a man and then assaulted and sexually assaulted him before burying his body.
The man, 26-year-old Fred Hardy McNeal, had been reported missing by his sister in September. His body was not found until October in a shallow grave on a property near Sheep Pasture Road and F.M. 181.
Sheriff Mike Griffis said he has never seen a crime like this in all his time in law enforcement.
“It was a pretty brutal, gruesome crime,” Griffis said.
Griffis said they haven’t established a motive at this time, but said it is very likely drug-related.
“Some of these individuals are known drug users and abusers, but we haven’t identified a motive yet for sure,” Griffis said.
The seven charged are Wesley Dickenson, Jose Ramirez, Jennifer Rogers, Michael Silvas, Mikel Stegall Jr., Eddie Barnes and David Dearick.
This is the second capital murder charge for Silvas: who was previously charged in February with the shooting death of 26-year-old Ryan Stebbins along with Johnny Aguirre.
ECSO investigators conducted several interviews with the suspects following McNeal’s disappearance, a probable cause affidavit stated, and were able to verify that numerous people were responsible for McNeal’s disappearance, and later interviews with the same individuals confirmed McNeal was kidnapped by these suspects who conspired together.
The report said McNeal was reportedly kidnapped by the seven on Aug. 14 and taken to a travel trailer in the 1800 block of South Shawnee Trail.
McNeal was reportedly bound, assaulted and sexually assaulted by aggravated means, the report detailed, and died while being held by the suspects. It details that McNeal was sexually assaulted with an object used to penetrate his anus.
The affidavit stated the suspects then covered McNeal’s body with tape, a tarp and plastic and buried him.
The probable cause indicates a “cooperating source” provided information that led to the discovery of the burial site.
Investigators gathered cell phone records, cell site sector information and cell measurement data from cell phone carriers during the investigation, the affidavit said, which corroborated the suspects’ statements.
The charge is capital murder because the victim died during the commission of other crimes including aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault.