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Jordan Neely struggled with not being able to help his mother before his murder, lawyer says


Jordan Neely had struggled with not being able to help his mother before she was killed in 2007 and was still mourning her death, a lawyer for his family said on MSNBC on Saturday while calling for justice.

Neely, 30, died on Monday after former US Marine Daniel Penny allegedly suffocated him on a New York subway. He was unconscious when officers arrived and was pronounced dead in hospital. No charges have been filed against Penny.

At the time of his death, Neely was homeless and suffered from mental illness, his family said.

Donte Mills, an attorney for Neely’s family, told Al Sharpton on “PoliticsNation” that Neely “had demons” following her mother’s murder. Family members had tried to get him help, he said.

“We all know people who are about to go through something major, a disaster where they just can’t put it all back together and that’s where it was,” he said. declared. “But he had a life that he lived and sought.”

Neely testified at trial for her mother’s killer

Neely was 14 when her mother, Christine Neely, was killed in their home. reported that her body was stuffed into a suitcase and left on the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City.

Her boyfriend, Shawn Southerland, was convicted in a trial in which Neely, then 18, testified. He told the court he tried to say goodbye to his mother before school on April 4, 2007, but Southerland refused to let him into the bedroom. , reported

Mills said Neely learned that his mother had been killed the previous night and that Southerland had dumped her body while he was at school. Southerland was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the crime.

“He had to live with the fact that he left his mother dead in their house. So it’s a lot to live with and he had problems with that. But throughout his life he was determined to give back the others happy and that’s what he does,” Mills said.

“Part of it was entertaining. He really loved Michael Jackson, he was imitating him and his style,” he continued.

Several friends have spoken of Neely’s love of performing on the subway and around the city. Her impersonation of Jackson was so beloved in her neighborhood that neighbor Kizzy Gonzalez had Neely play at her son’s birthday party.

The party was over 20 years ago, but she remembered it clearly. “To see Jordan play Michael Jackson, my son really thought he was the real Michael Jackson,” she said in a phone call Saturday.

“That’s how great he was. He’s always been known as a great Michael Jackson performer, he took on the whole personality,” she continued. “He spent his spare change buying outfits to match what Michael Jackson wore in certain songs and videos.”

Gonzalez’s cousin, Lance Clarke, from Brooklyn, knew Neely from the neighborhood and remembers seeing him in costume on numerous occasions.

“He used to have a full, immaculate Michael Jackson outfit and he would perform in that outfit,” he said in a phone call.

More coverage of Jordan Neely’s death

A neighbor says that over the years Neely looked ‘broken’ and ‘tired’

Neely seemed to take a “downward spiral” over the years, Clarke said, and her beloved suits would look tattered and torn. Eventually, Neely stopped dancing and “sat on the train, didn’t play, didn’t ask for money”.

On several occasions, Clarke said he would tell Neely to get off the train and wait outside his building while he gave her food and clothes.

“He just looked broken. He just looked tired…just an air of desperation and lack of hope,” he said.

Gonzalez said the Neely she knew was always “sweet” but “troubled”. The last time she saw him was about a year ago. She said he appeared to be “distressed and going through tough times”.

“Jordan was a troubled young man,” she said. “I just know him from having been through a very traumatic life and a very traumatic childhood.”

Calls for justice and accusations are increasing

Some witnesses told NBC New York that Neely allegedly acted aggressively towards passengers and threatened to harm them when he boarded the train on Monday. Penny’s lawyers described a similar scene.

“When Mr. Neely began to aggressively threaten Daniel Penny and the other passengers, Daniel, with the help of others, acted to protect himself, until help arrived,” Penny’s attorneys said. in a statement Friday evening. “Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death.”

Cellphone video captured by a witness showed Penny on the ground with her arm locked around Neely’s neck. The witness, Juan Alberto Vazquez, told NBC New York that Neely was held in a choke position for about 15 minutes.

The city’s chief medical examiner’s office said he “died of ‘neck compression (strangulation)’ and the manner was a homicide.

Penny was taken into custody on Monday, questioned by police and released. He has not been charged.

The incident sparked a national debate, with people decrying vigilantism and some politicians demanding authorities do more to tackle homelessness, mental health and violence in subways.

Attorney Lennon Edwards told Sharpton that what happened to Neely is “an open and closed case.”

“There is no need for an extended investigation, so to speak, to determine that this man committed murder and should have been arrested immediately,” he said.

Neither Gonzalez nor his cousin has fully addressed Neely’s death. Clarke said he didn’t watch the video because he wasn’t “watching that boy get killed.”

“Yes, someone on the train screaming is an uncomfortable feeling. But just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s a dangerous situation,” he said. “Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t give you the right to take someone’s life.”

Gonzalez said she wanted to see Penny arrested and charged. “The justice system should do what it’s supposed to do,” she said. “There are repercussions.”

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.