A Man’s Family Is Certain He Was Wrongly Convicted Of Murdering His Pregnant Wife In 1997

Rodney Patrick McNeal is in prison after authorities say he murdered his wife in a fit of rage in 1997. His family has been adamant about his innocence ever since.

Debra McNeal, pictured here posing for a photo, was found murdered in the bathtub of her home on March 10, 1997.

Rodney Patrick McNeal is in prison after authorities say he murdered his wife in a fit of rage in 1997. His family has been adamant about his innocence ever since.

Photo by: Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from ID's "Reasonable Doubt")

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from ID's "Reasonable Doubt")

Rodney Patrick McNeal arrived at his San Bernardino, California home on March 10, 1997, where he expected his pregnant wife, Debra, to be ready for him to take her to a doctor’s appointment.

Instead, he found their home in disarray. Drawers throughout the home had been dumped. Furniture was slashed open, and the entertainment center in the living room had been knocked down. Debra was nowhere to be found, and the house was still. Patrick walked through the empty master bedroom and into the bathroom.

Debra was lying in the tub, beaten and bloodied.

Patrick ran to a neighbor’s house to call 911. Eight months later, he was arrested and charged with Debra’s murder.

His 2000 trial and subsequent guilty verdict on two counts of murder resulted in a 30-year sentence. In 2020, the former probation officer was granted parole, but California Governor Gavin Newsom reversed their decision, and Patrick remains in prison. He has insisted he is innocent since he was first arrested.

A Quest For The Truth

Patrick’s sister, Wendy, and daughter, Candace, asked retired homicide detective Chris Anderson and criminal defense attorney Fatima Silva to look into the case to see if they could uncover any evidence to exonerate him from his alleged crimes.

The police had been summoned to the McNeal house several times in the months before the murder, but Wendy and Candace insisted it was Debra who had a temper. She was reportedly physically abusive towards Patrick and would fly into rages where she would destroy furniture and throw items around the house. The day before she was killed, she broke three televisions in a particularly nasty fight with Patrick.

Still, Wendy insisted, Patrick never would have hit Debra.

Wendy also told Chris and Fatima that Patrick didn’t have any blood on him when police arrived at the scene. How could he have beaten, stabbed, and dragged her into a bathtub without a single speck of blood on his clothes?

Patrick’s family members also had an alternate suspect. His brother, Jeff, reportedly confessed to the crime on more than one occasion.

Perhaps the most convincing argument offered by Patrick’s family was the tight timeframe in which he would have committed the crime. Phone records from the day of the murder show that Patrick used his work phone to call his home at 12:19. He reported his wife’s murder from a neighbor’s phone just 15 minutes later. With an eight-minute drive between his office and his house, how was there enough time to murder his wife, put her body in the bathtub without getting any blood on himself, and then run to a neighbor’s home?

See what happens when Chris and Fatima speak to Debra’s family members on the season 5 premiere of Reasonable Doubt on ID on August 9 at 10/9c. More episodes are available now on discovery+.

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