Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Neal Jennings

Real Name: James Neal Jennings
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Odessa, Texas
Date: February 28, 1988


Details: At 9 pm on February 28, 1988, Neal Jennings, fifty-nine, an Odessa, Texas businessman, was found beaten, shot to death, and dumped in a trash fire behind an abandoned bar. An employee named Bill Roberts became the prime suspect in his murder. Two days before he was found dead, Neal had shown his refurbished 1959 Ford Thunderbird to his brother. The car had been worked on by Bill, but Neal told his brother that he would be unable to pay him up front. That night, they checked into a motel in Odessa. That was the last time Neal was seen alive.
However, in the following two days, Bill Roberts would be seen numerous times, acting suspiciously. An hour after arriving in town, Bill showed up at the home of a man named Jack who had previously introduced him to Neal. Jack noticed that Bill appeared nervous and was sweating profusely. When Jack asked about Neal, Bill claimed that he had dropped Neal off at a friend's house. Jack agreed to jump start Bill's pickup truck, and Bill parked it in Jack's backyard. That night, he slept in the cab.
The next morning, Jack noticed that there was a tarp in the bed of the pickup truck and that Bill had been oddly walking around it, looking at the bed. At 10:30 am, Bill brought the pickup truck to a nearby motel and tried to sell it. When he was unsuccessful, he asked if he could park the truck behind the motel.
Six hours later, he returned to the motel, asking for a pick and shovel. However, the motel residents did not have one for him. He then took the truck to a convenience store less than a mile away. He asked the manager if he could park the truck behind the store, and the manager agreed. Fifteen minutes later, the manager heard two gunshots. Forty five minutes after that, Bill returned with a large wad of cash. After leaving the store, he went back to the motel where he spent the night in the truck.
The next morning, he mentioned to a resident that he had "done the job" and acted nervously. The resident noticed that he had some blood on his shirt. A few minutes later, another resident noticed some blood on the back of the pickup truck. At around noon, Bill left the motel and vanished. Eight hours later, police discovered Neal's body. Shotgun shells, wadding, and drag marks were found at the scene.
Authorities believe Neal was murdered on the night of February 27, and that Bill hid his body in a trash heap. For unknown reasons, he returned the next night and set it on fire. The apparent motive was to steal Neal's truck and then sell it. The mystery to police is the whereabouts of Neal from February 26 to 27. It is known that he arrived in Odessa on the night of the 26th. He was never seen after that. However, he was apparently not shot until the night of the 27th. The whereabouts of his body until the evening of the 28th are also uncertain.
Authorities soon learned that Bill Roberts's real name was Bill Blackwell, and that he had served time for larceny and theft. He was wanted at the time for parole violation. Blackwell was last seen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he sold Neal's pickup truck at a flea market on March 1. He is wanted for the murder of Neal Jennings.
Suspects: Bill Blackwell
Extra Notes: This segment ran for the first time on January 20, 1993. MadTV actress Stephnie Weir appeared in this segment.
Results: Solved. In 2006, Blackwell was arrested in North Carolina under the name "John Downey". However, he was released before fingerprints confirmed his identity. Then, in 2007, he was arrested again in Texas, positively identified, and charged with Neal's murder. He pled guilty to Neal's murder in 2008 and was sentenced to thirty years in prison.