Possible Triggers. Warning. Difficult Content.
An adopted woman, Christine Marie Salley’s search for her biological parents in 2018, utilizing DNA and a private investigator, has led to the identification of two bodies found buried in a remote part of the Mojave Desert in 1980.
The body of a woman, previously known as “Jane Doe 10,” has now been identified as Pamela Dianne Duffey. She was born on April 6, 1959 and estimated to be 20 years old at the time of her death. The body of a man, previously known as “John Doe 29,” has now been identified as being William Everette Lane, who was born on May 23, 1960. The victims have now been linked to an incarcerated Mississippi man, Howard Neal, age 68. The case is among the oldest cold cases the Sheriff’s Department has dealt with.
Both of the victims were estimated to have been dead for six to eight months when they were discovered. The bodies in San Bernardino County were initially discovered in November 1980 about five miles east of the town of Ludlow and a little more than a quarter-mile south of U.S. Highway 66. Ludlow is off Interstate 40 in a remote area between Barstow and Needles. Neither victim was wearing any clothing nor had any identifying information on them. An autopsy was performed and it was determined that both died of a combination of a gunshot wound and blunt force trauma. Attempts to identify the two with available resources at the time of the autopsy were unsuccessful.
In December 2018, the private investigator submitted Salley’s DNA to GEDmatch DNA and a child/parent match was indicated between Salley and Duffey’s body. Salley then learned that before her mother was considered missing, she reportedly knew and traveled with a man known as “Digger Lane,” a former Virginia prison inmate who was released in either late 1979 or early 1980. A DNA sample from Lane’s mother in Jacksonville, Florida, positively identified the male victim as Lane. Christine Marie Salley provided sheriff’s investigators with adoption paperwork and additional DNA samples.
Prior to the positive identification of the bodies, sheriff’s investigators were aware that Howard Neal, age 68, and his family previously lived in Ludlow, California and had moved to Mississippi shortly after the killings. Investigators made several attempts to interview him, however, they were not successful in securing a meeting with him until August 2017. Both of the now identified victims are believed to have been murdered by Neal. He is currently incarcerated in Mississippi for the 1981 rape and murder of his 13-year-old niece and her 12-year-old friend, as well as the murder of his brother.
In an interview, Neal provided “very little” information but gave accounts of picking up a woman hitchhiker, who left her daughter behind (one wonders what happened next in this situation, news accounts don’t answer that obvious question), and a man he described as being a “hippie.” When he tried to make advances on the woman, an argument ensued that resulted in the fatal shooting of the man. Neal then sexually assaulted the woman and also killed her. Afterwards he took the bodies to an isolated part of the desert, dug a shallow grave and buried the two.
Neal was initially sentenced to death in 1982 for the previously mentioned familial murders. His lawyer filed an appeal based on Neal’s mental status in 1990. His death sentence was commuted after he was found to be “borderline mentally challenged” following an IQ test. Neal is currently serving three life sentences.