A North Carolina man had been released from prison, only ten days after his wife died.
Wilson, North Carolina man John McNeil had just been released from a Georgia prison when he set about burying his wife two days later.
Anita McNeil had waited for John McNeil, her husband of 22 years, to be released from prison. John was her high school sweetheart and the father of their two sons, whom he had been defending when he shot an intruder. Family and friends hold to the belief that she tried to hold on until he was free, but breast cancer finally took her on February 2, ten days before his release.
Anita McNeil was buried at a funeral on Valentine’s Day, the only event John McNeil was able to attend. While he was in prison, he had missed his mother’s funeral in July 2012. He didn’t want miss his wife’s funeral as well, and he didn’t. He had tried petitioning for early release on change.org, but the petition had failed.
John McNeil, an African-american, had shot a white man in self defense. Brian Epp had trespassed on their property and threatened his family with a knife.
The last time John McNeil spoke to his wife on the phone, he told her how much he loved her. According to the Huffington Post, they had agreed that he would plead guilty to manslaughter so he would be released from prison in time to see her one last time. He said in an interview last week:
“I told her how much she meant to me and that I needed her because I feed off her strength and energy.”
John II and La’Ron, his two sons whom he defended, are now grown men in their late 20s. John McNeil became emotional talking about meeting them again early Wednesday morning:
“I can’t even explain or express the feelings and emotions that went through my body. No matter how old your sons get, you have a responsibility for them. When I saw them, I could only hug them and we cried.”
John McNeil said he prayed for Brian Epp’s family at his wife’s funeral:
“It’s sad when we lose a loved one, no matter the circumstances. My heart goes out to their family. I pray for them as people pray for me and my family. You sit and say, Lord, I wish this nightmare had never happened. But it did. It’s something you live with daily, and you constantly lean on God for his comfort and his guidance.”
John McNeil later commented on his fight against the system to get out of prison sooner, saying it isn’t about celebrating as you get released from prison. It’s about justice.
How do you feel about John McNeil getting released from prison, only to bury his wife?
The NAACP continues to work to free those unfairly sentenced naacp.org/news/entry/joh….Sad that Mr. Mcneils wife died 2 weeks b4 his release.
— Dedrick Muhammad (@DedrickM) February 18, 2013