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New DNA evidence links Donald Lee Moore, a man named in the 'Serial' podcast, to a 1996 killing

Updated 10:10 PM ET, Sat February 15, 2020

(CNN) - Nearly 24 years after the death of 23-year-old Shawn Marie Neal, police in South Carolina say they have identified the man who killed her using newly discovered DNA evidence.

Ronald Lee Moore, a suspected serial burglar from Baltimore County, Maryland, has been identified as Neal's killer, according to the North Myrtle Beach police. Moore committed suicide while incarcerated in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, in 2008.

Moore was named as a possible suspect in the 1999 killing of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore, one of the cases which became a topic during the first season of the popular crime podcast "Serial." However, DNA from evidence of the Lee case did not match Moore's.

Neal was reported missing by her boyfriend in June 1996 after she had left to meet a man named Don Gibson, but never returned home. When police conducted a welfare check at a North Myrtle Beach condo, Neal was found strangled to death, according to the official police report.

Police later concluded that Don Gibson was a fake name. A search of the area found several items from the crime scene located in a nearby dumpster. But after failing to identify any suspects or leads in Neal's death, the case went cold and the investigation became inactive.

However, the North Myrtle Beach Police Department reopened the case in November 2017 due to advances in DNA collection, according to a department news release.

Numerous parties involved in the case were interviewed, and physical evidence from the case were sent to the Richland County Sheriff's Department Forensics Lab in Columbia, South Carolina, the police report said.

Thanks to modern advancements in DNA technology, the lab identified previously undiscovered DNA of an unknown suspect on evidence found in the dumpster. The DNA found on towels and a bedspread matched DNA found on Neal's inner clothing.

The new DNA was entered into a national DNA database and matched a DNA profile belonging to Moore.

"Further investigation revealed that Moore had also been named a suspect in a series of burglaries, unsolved sexual assault cases and an additional unsolved homicide case from Baltimore County (Maryland) in 1999," according to the news release. "Review of these case files revealed striking similarities between Moore's suspected victims in Maryland and the Neal homicide in North Myrtle Beach."

While Moore did not frequently visit or live in North Myrtle Beach, detectives discovered that he had friends he would visit in Louisiana. Police believed that Moore might have passed through Myrtle Beach in the summer of 1996 while traveling from Maryland to Louisiana.

Investigators have determined that probable cause exists to charge Moore. But since he died in jail on an unrelated charge, he cannot be formally charged or tried for Neal's killing. Investigators, however, have closed the case of Neal.

"The department hopes the resolution of Shawn's case leads the family to some semblance of closure," according to the news release.


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