Rodney Patrick McNeal

County of Conviction:

Convicted of:





case details

In March of 1997, Rodney Patrick McNeal, a San Bernardino probation officer, drove home to pick up his pregnant wife, Debra, to take her to the doctor. Unfortunately, when Patrick came home, he found his wife brutally murdered and lying in the bathtub in the master bedroom. In a panic, he tried to help her but couldn’t lift her from the bathtub. Unable to locate the phone, he asked a neighbor to call 911. The police arrived and found the house had been trashed, furniture had been slashed, and there was a trail of blood from the living room to the master bathroom. Police later determined someone had beaten and stabbed Derba, but she ultimately died from manual strangulation.

Police eventually arrested Patrick McNeal for the murder of Debra and their unborn baby. The police believed McNeal was responsible, in part, due to a history of domestic disputes between him and Debra. The prosecution’s theory at trial was that Patrick and Debra had been arguing when he arrived home to take her to the doctor. Then, in a fit of rage, Patrick McNeal killed her.
However, the timeline of events and physical evidence do not support the prosecution’s theory.

Instead, the timeline and physical evidence show it was impossible for McNeal to have murdered Debra and their unborn baby. The evidence showed Patrick was at his office until 12:15 p.m. and arrived home just before 12:30 p.m. The first police officer arrived on the scene at 12:32 p.m. Therefore, it would have been impossible for Patrick to commit the crime in that time frame.

Further, the blood spatter patterns in the living room indicated that whoever beat and killed Debra would have had Debra’s blood on their clothing. Patrick had none. McNeal would have had to change his clothes in order to have no blood on them. And, as explained below, there was not enough time to do that in addition to the crime. Finally, there were unidentified hairs and fibers found on Debra that did not belong to Patrick.

Despite all of the obvious problems with the prosecution’s case, a jury found Patrick guilty and the court sentenced him to 30 years-to-life.

In 2006, with the help of attorneys then working at the California Innocence Project, Patrick presented evidence that Patrick’s half-brother, Jeffery West, had a history of similar murders and had bragged to many people about killing Debra. These witnesses, despite being terrified of West, testified about Jeff’s confession, but the judge refused to overturn Patrick’s conviction.

In 2012, with the help of Raquel Barilla, Patrick McNeal sought to have DNA testing completed on the evidence found at the crime scene. Unfortunately, the results were inconclusive.

Fortunately, on October 28, 2022, after 25 years, Patrick was released on parole.

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