D.C. man convicted of double-murder of school friends claims self-defense, denies killing one of the victims
03/07/2018 5:00 pm PST
The story of three best friends who did everything together since the 9th grade. But as this tight crew grew older, they found themselves tangled in a web of sex, lies, and even murder.
Jeffrey Neal, Delano Wingfield, Leon Young, three best friends who all went by one name: The Wolfpack, an unofficial band of brothers with a bond so strong, nobody from the outside could break it. But one of the pack was hiding a dark secret that would leave two of them dead, and a lone wolf on the lam.
Jeffrey Neal, Delano Wingfield And Leon Young met at McKinley Technology High School in the shadows of the nation's capital. The Wolfpack united over skateboarding, video games and a fascination with Japanese weaponry.
"Jeffrey is a caring person, will help anybody, very smart. Loved his family, loved his friends," said Jeffrey's mother Denise Washington. "Delano was quiet, kind of withdrawn, stayed to his self mostly. Then Leon was the wild, crazy one. If he didn't get his way, he would be like a little kid having a tantrum."
Denise Washington is Jeffrey's mother, but she says she considered Leon and Delano part of her family.
"I've been in each one of those houses. I knew their parents," she tells Crime Watch Daily.
So when Jeffrey asks his mom if the pack can move in to a house his family owns after graduation, Denise agrees.
Did you think it was a good idea?
"Yes, because we can keep a closer eye on the boys," said Denise.
Jeffrey Neal was playing the role of landlord. So their little white brick row house morphs into the "Wolves' Den."
Keith Alexander says the house was a real life "Neverland," and the pack was living a Peter Pan fantasy.
"Many people who stayed at that house said it was a frat house," said Alexander.
The house became a revolving door for girls and all-night parties. Soon neighbors began to complain about the noise, and the overwhelming smell of marijuana.
Eventually, no one is taking care of the house or paying the bills.
"They were struggling with keeping the utilities on. So there were times when the electricity wasn't on, the water wasn't on," said Alexander. "Jeffrey Neal was frustrated, angry and enraged about what was going on at the house."
Tensions begin to run high in the Wolves' Den, and the pack, once unbreakable, is now starting to turn on each other.
Did you ever notice any violence or anger inside the home between any of them?
"Just between Jeffrey and Leon mostly," said Kelechi Enwereji, a friend of the group.
Who was the aggressor?
"I would have to say Leon," said Enwereji.
Kelechi Enwereji was friends with all three of the men and says he warned Jeffrey that he needed to fix the problem.
"From what I was seeing in the house, there was something bound to happen," said Kelechi Enwereji.
As the mess mounts and the bills pile up, Leon suffers a mental breakdown and is briefly hospitalized. He's diagnosed with psychosis.
Those mental breakdowns caused issues within the home and issues with Jeffrey Neal and issues with Delano Wingfield.
When Leon Young is released from the hospital, he returns to the Wolves' Den, but there's something different about him. Jeffrey says he wandered around the house naked just staring out the window into the back yard. Denise said his behavior turned almost rabid.
Leon wrote a book?
"Yes," said Denise. "That had in there how he was gonna kill his parents, how he was gonna kill his friends."
As a mom were you in fear for your son's safety?
"We knew Leon had mental issues," said Denise. "And we just left it alone, because Jeffrey would say that, he would, you know, try to help and take care of it."
But soon, even Jeffrey can't keep the peace. Scuffles between the onetime best friends escalate into full-blown brawls.
Denise says one night Leon attacks Jeffrey while he's sleeping, kicking him violently and repeatedly in the groin. And the violence only escalates. Days later Leon pulls a razor-sharp ninja blade on Jeffrey.
"He got cut and almost cut off part of his hand, and I had to take him to the hospital to get stiches," said Denise.
The pack is now completely divided. It's every man for himself. And without warning, Delano Wingfield suddenly disappears from the Den.
"My brother and my son had told me that there had been notes put up on the door saying, 'Please give us a call, have you seen Delano?'" said Denise.
Then a few weeks, later Delano's grandmother receives a bizarre text saying he's headed to Europe. His family is very suspicious, because Delano doesn't have any money.
"Delano's grandmother went to the house and confronted Jeffrey Neal and said 'I haven't seen my grandson, do you know where he is?' And Jeffrey Neal said 'No ma'am, I don't know where he is.' And she said, 'I'm gonna give him a couple days and then if I don't hear from him, I'm going to report him missing,'" said Keith Alexander.
The pack is now down to two lone alpha wolves, both at each other's throat. Days later the little row house goes eerily quiet.
On a sweltering hot day in June 2014 Jeffrey's two uncles head to the little white brick house. But when they get there something stops them in their tracks.
"One of the uncles notices a smell, and he goes up into the attic," said Alexander.
Delano Wingfield texted his family he's heading to Europe. Leon Young, who's been suffering from a mental breakdown, is nowhere to be found. Then Jeffrey Neal vanishes.
To help solve the mystery, Jeffrey's uncles go check on the little white brick house. The minute they step inside they know something horrible happened up in the attic.
"So they grab a ladder to climb into the attic, which is a tight attic. They discovered the decomposing body of Leon Young," said Washington Post reporter Keith Alexander.
Leon's been brutally murdered.
"A plastic bag over his head, completely nude," said Alexander.
Leon had been bludgeoned to death with a rusty hammer, hit so hard that part of his skull is actually caved in.
"I was just dumbfounded," said Denise Washington, Jeffery Neal's mother. "So they asked me to come down to the police station and bring my son, and that's what I did."
Just days before Leon's body was found, Jeffrey had resurfaced and moved back in with his mom. But now he's on the hot seat with detectives in a recorded interrogation.
Jeffrey Neal: "Glad you guys brought your notepads 'cause I've got a story for you."
Detective: "I hope it's a good story."
Neal: "No, it's not a good story."
It's a shocking and horrifying story.
Neal: "Yeah, so I'm your guy, basically."
Jeffrey Neal confesses, telling detectives they are looking at Leon Young's killer.
Neal: "I hit him with the hammer. And he died, he didn't go down from the first blow, but the first blow did make him bleed. And I hit him again and then he fell right on his floor. If you check his room you should see blood splatter."
Detective: "Are you sure you only hit him two times?"
Neal: "Yeah, I'm pretty sure I only hit him two times."
Jeffrey says he hit his best friend in the head two times and then put Leon's lifeless body in the attic.
Neal: "So I shook him, nothing. He made a little grumble, and I completely freaked out. I put the ladder up, put his body in the attic."
Detective: "How did you get his body into the attic?"
Neal: "I picked him up, he's small."
Detective: "Did you place anything on him, on his feet, hands, legs, head?"
Neal: "I did try to cover his head up to stop the bleeding with a plastic bag, but then that didn't work so I just tied his head up with the plastic bag and just left it up there too."
A killer confession seems like easy work for the detectives -- until Jeffrey Neal hits them with this:
Neal: "I know I'm going to jail for this but I'm kinda hoping that my sentence won't be too bad because of self-defense."
Jeffrey Neal says he had to kill Leon Young because Leon was about to kill him.
Neal: "He was standing in front of the window looking out the window at his car with his knife in his hand, just shaking his knife. I walked in his room, I asked him if he was all right, and he attacked me with the knife. I backed up, but he got my hand a little bit, not much. You see it on my thumb and my finger. So he continued to attack me with the knife, and as I backed up I reached on the table, there was a hammer on the table, and I swung it at him, hit him in the head."
But Jeffrey's not done with his story. He says before Leon attacked him, he made a chilling confession of his own.
Neal: "He said to me 'I killed Delano.' He didn't say anything else to me but 'I killed Delano.'"
"Neal said that Leon Young came at him, said, 'Look, I just killed Wingfield and I could do the same thing to you,'" said Keith Alexander.
Neal: "That's what he said. I don't know if it's -- I hope it isn't true."
Remember, Leon had mental problems and viciously attacked Jeffrey before, repeatedly kicking him in the groin. So detectives start to think Jeffrey's crazy story of self-defense may not be all that crazy.
Neal: "I would rather go to jail than be dead on my floor right now."
Now cops wonder if Leon may have told Jeffrey where he buried Delano's body.
Detective: "He didn't mention where Delano is or anything like that?"
Neal: "No, he didn't mention where Delano is, or anything."
Despite his confession, with Jeffrey's claim of killing Leon in self-defense, detectives release Jeffrey.
"They finally come out and they bring my son to me. And I said 'Well, if there's anything he's done, what are you all gonna do?'" said Denise. "'So if you're going to arrest us, arrest us, if not, let us go.' So they let us go."
Delano had been reported missing by his grandmother weeks ago, so cops head to the little white brick house looking for clues. Police came back out to the house a second time and they brought cadaver dogs. They searched inside the house and outside the property, and made another gruesome discovery. A cadaver dog hits on a spot in the back yard. Buried in a shallow grave under a pile of bricks they find Delano Wingfield's decomposed body.
So is Jeffrey now off the hook? Not so fast. Two members of the Wolfpack are dead, and they were both killed the same way.
"One man was killed, struck repeatedly with a hammer, another man was killed, struck repeatedly with a hammer. One man's body was completely nude when it was found, another man's body was found completely nude," said Keith Alexander.
At one time they were blood brothers who called themselves the Wolfpack. Now Jeffrey Neal is the lone wolf who says it was kill or be killed.
In a police interrogation, Jeffrey Neal acted out what he claimed was the rage of Leon Young. He says his best friend threatened to kill him after confessing to murdering his other best friend, Delano Wingfield. Jeffrey says he had no choice -- he was in a fight for his life.
Neal: "I took the hammer and hit him like that. The first time I hit him I saw a blood spot on his head, and the second time I hit him he, I saw the hammer go in his head. Pretty sure it was two times."
Even though Jeffrey confessed to killing Leon in self-defense, police let Jeffrey Neal go free, at least for now.
Neal: "If you guys hear anything about Delano, I would like to know too."
It doesn't take long. Two days later investigators, with the help of cadaver dogs, discover Delano's body. He's buried in a shallow grave just behind the house the Wolfpack used to share. Cops are stunned: it looks like a copycat killing.
"Wingfield was struck multiple times with a hammer. Wingfield's body was also nude, just like Young's," said Washington Post reporter Keith Alexander.
"I had to question myself and wonder about my son," said Jeffrey's mother Denise Washington. "But he said 'Mom, I did not kill Delano,' he said 'I did kill Leon Young,' but he said 'Leon was trying to kill me.'"
After a sweep of the house, cops found two different hammers. One hammer is covered in both Leon Young's and Jeffrey Neal's blood. The second hammer only has Delano Wingfield's blood on it. Jeffrey's story to the cops seems to be lining up.
"None of my son's DNA was on Delano's body, ground or the instrument that took Delano Wingfield's life," said Denise Washington.
Then the medical examiner's report comes in. It's not good news for Jeffrey: Delano's blood was all over Jeffrey's bedroom, and Leon was hit a lot more than just two times with a hammer.
"The autopsy showed Leon Young was struck more than 20 times, and that is where it became much more than just self-defense," said Keith Alexander.
Each of the 26 hits were described as full-body swings.
"That's somebody who was going back and forth, back and forth with a hammer, that's rage. What caused so much rage for these high school friends? And it's personal. And that's what's troubling, is that we just don't know what caused that," said Alexander.
Cops still don't have a motive, but the eerie similarities of the murders are enough for D.C. Metro Police to charge Jeffrey Neal with both of the killings.
Jeffrey Neal revealed the motive behind the murders: The Wolfpack had become more than just a band of brothers -- they had become a den of lovers. That friendship did grow into something more, something romantic.
"Correct. Jeffrey Neal was having a relationship with Wingfield, as well as Leon Young," said Alexander.
Jeffrey confesses the Wolfpack had been closet lovers for years, claiming the trouble all started when the dynamic of the secret threesome changed. Jeffrey recently switched his romantic affections mostly to Delano. And when Leon found out he was being dumped, he exploded into a jilted lover's jealous rage.
"It was a love triangle gone wrong," said Denise Washington.
Did you know your son's relationship with Leon and Delano had went from a friendship to maybe love?
"Yes. I know about it," said Denise.
Did you give your son advice?
"No," said Denise. "He was 21, that was his love affair, not mine. But I also instructed him, 'You need to use caution. You're treading on kind of weird water.'"
The wild claims of sex-capades between Jeffrey and his childhood best friends shocked the city.
"What really came out was that these men were having sexual intercourse with each other unbeknownst to a lot of people outside the house, because lot of these guys had girlfriends, and so -- but what went on inside the house seemed to stay inside the house. Outside the house, they carried on as friends, as heterosexual friends who just came together and were just pure, platonic roommates. But according to Jeffrey Neal, inside the house, there was lot more going on than just mere roommates," said Keith Alexander.
Then the prosecution comes back with what some call another smoking gun. It centers around a gruesome crime scene photo of Delano Wingfield in his grave wearing socks. When Jeffrey confessed to killing Leon Young and hiding his body in the attic, he told detectives Leon was naked except for his socks. Here's the problem: Leon wasn't wearing socks. Prosecutors say Jeffrey confused his two murder victims.
The jury finds Jeffrey Neal to be a cold-blooded killer who murdered his two best friends. He's convicted and sentenced to 60 years behind bars.
In an exclusive, Jeffrey Neal talks to Crime Watch Daily about what he says really happened that June day in 2014.
Are you a monster?
"I damn sure don't feel like one," Jeffrey says.
Were you in fear for your life?
"Terrified. Especially considering the previous stab wound that he had given me a year and a half back," said Jeffrey.
Jeffrey Neal speaks to Crime Watch Daily over the telephone from Big Sandy Prison in Inez, Kentucky.
So Leon and Delano are both killed with a hammer. Can you understand why that looks so bad for you?
"I understand completely why it looks extremely bad for me," said Jeffrey.
What do you think the motive for Leon killing Delano would be? Was it a love triangle gone bad?
"I think that the love triangle was a very strong possibility, but truthfully I would just be throwing darts at a board with a blindfold if I told you I knew," said Jeffrey.
But some now question if this is all just part of Jeffrey Neal's defense strategy.
It's been reported that this may have been possibly a love triangle that went wrong. Is that accurate?
"Well, it depends on who you ask. That's what's so unusual about this case, right?" said Keith Alexander. "Only one who seems to really know about this love triangle is Jeffrey Neal. No one had any confirmation that there was anything going on sexually. Again, the only one who really seemed to know about that is the one survivor, and that's Jeffrey Neal."
Jeffrey Neal still maintains he did not kill Delano Wingfield.
You were romantically linked to both of them, correct?
"Correct," Jeffrey tells Crime Watch Daily.
And in a shocking revelation, Jeffrey says he killed the man he actually loved.
Did you love both of these men?
"I was in love with Leon. I was never in love with Delano," said Jeffrey.
As for the 26 full-body swings to Leon, Jeffrey says he remembers hitting him more times, but was trying to downplay the murder to detectives.
"I had no idea the exact number of times I hit him," said Jeffrey.
Do you think you should be behind bars for Leon's death?
"Truthfully, I do, because I feel like my actions could have been different. I don't feel like I should be behind bars for first-degree murder," said Jeffrey.
What do you want people to know about you?
"I'm not a guilty man when it comes to Delano Wingfield. I did not kill that man. That man was my brother, and I loved him like a brother," said Jeffrey.
Jeffrey Neal wants to appeal his conviction.
What is your hope for your future?
"I hope I get a new trial and I hope that this new trial, the jury really pays attention to the DNA evidence," said Jeffrey.
And Denise Washington, who considered herself a mother to all the boys in the Wolfpack and once felt she had three sons, now has none.
Do you believe in your heart Jeffrey is innocent?
"Yes, I do," said Denise.
What's next for you?
"Try to fight for my son. I'm gonna do everything I can to help my son," said Denise Washington.
Jeffrey Neal has appealed his conviction, hoping to get a new trial. One of the thing he's hoping to do is split the murder cases. He believes the fact that they were tried together hurt his case.
Attorney Kevin McCants discusses Jeffrey Neal case
Kevin McCants, lead counsel for Jeffrey Neal, spoke to Crime Watch Daily about details of the case.