The Washington Post

D.C. police investigating whether homicide victim killed roommate a week earlier

D.C. police who found a week-old corpse in the attic of a house in the Shaw neighborhood Friday said that they had the homeowner in custody within hours but that new information indicated that another man might also be dead in the case.

Court documents say that just before the fatal struggle June 7 — in which the homeowner and the victim fought with a Ninja-style weapon and a hammer — the victim, a friend who also lived at the house, allegedly blurted out that he had killed a third roommate.

D.C. police said Monday that they were unable to verify the suspect’s account and were still investigating his claims. But police said Delano DeWhitt Wingfield, 23, whose grandmother reported him missing June 3, had not yet been found and that an active search for him or his body was underway.

Wingfield’s grandmother, Bernadette White, 66, said in a brief interview that the three men had attended McKinley Technical High School in Northeast Washington and were friends. She declined to comment further, saying that she was trying to make sense of the tragic turn the case had taken.

The man whose body was found has been identified as Leon Young, 22, and the homeowner was identified as Jeffrey Bernard Neal, 21. Relatives of both men did not return calls seeking comment. Neal’s attorney, a lawyer with the D.C. Public Defender Service, also did not return calls. Neal was being detained on a charge of second-degree murder pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 8.

Police were called to Neal’s rowhouse in the 1800 block of 8th Street NW about 11:30 a.m. Friday after two of his uncles went inside to do some repair work and smelled a foul odor, according to police documents filed in D.C. Superior Court. One of the uncles found Young’s body under an inflatable mattress, authorities said in the court papers.

After his arrest Friday, Neal told police that on June 7, he saw Young standing naked in the bathroom, shaking and staring out a window while holding a “kunai,” a Ninja-style throwing weapon that resembles an implement used to gouge holes in walls. According to the account Neal gave police, Young “stated that he had killed Delano,” according to the charging document.

Neal told police that Young then lunged at him with the knife and cut him. He said he fought back, hitting Young twice in the head with a hammer, court papers say.

Police said Neal then carried the body to the attic, hid it under the mattress and drove to Florida, hoping to escape eventually to Mexico.

But police said in court documents that Neal ran out of money, abandoned the car in Florida and took a bus back to Washington, using money borrowed from his mother. Police said the car was found in a McDonald’s parking lot.

D.C. police said they are investigating the relationship between the three men and what might have caused apparent discord.

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