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3:29 PM Wed, Sept. 19th

Judge denies bond for man accused in multi-decade child sex case

Eric George McNeill

Eric George McNeill

PRESCOTT - A Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied bond for Eric George McNeill, accused in numerous sex crimes against children between 4 and 17 years old over a 40-year period.

McNeill, 65, is believed to have committed sex offenses as far back as 1972 and as recently as September 2011, said YCSO spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn.

Once a judge signed an arrest warrant in August 2012, McNeill was the subject of a nationwide manhunt.

McNeill's case was featured on the "America's Most Wanted" television program in September 2012 and, based on tips authorities received, they learned he was in Southern Oregon, possibly near Klamath Falls or Chiloquin. On Sept. 19, U.S. marshals spotted McNeill's vehicle at Hagelstein Park, a roadside campground, approximately eight miles north of Klamath Falls. With help from the Klamath Falls Police Department and Oregon State Police, they took him into custody without incident.

He's been indicted on 10 counts of sexual conduct with a minor, three counts of sexual assault, five counts of child molestation and one count each of kidnapping, attempted sexual assault, aggravated assault, and influencing a witness.

He's being held without bond, and Wednesday there was a hearing to determine whether a judge would change that status and set a bond amount.

Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley had to be convinced that "proof (is) evident, presumption (is) great" that McNeill is guilty in order to decide to continue to hold him without bond.

Deputy County Attorney Steve Sisneros put on two witnesses, one, a YCSO detective, and the other, a woman who said McNeill sexually assaulted her as a child.

Detective Ross Diskin described the incident that set into motion the effort to find and arrest McNeill.

In September 2011, he investigated an allegation that McNeill fondled a 4-year-old girl. A nurse told him that the girl indicated McNeill had touched her inappropriately.

McNeill's response, Diskin said, was that she "was playing on the bed, she fell off, her pants came down, and he pulled them back up."

Two adult women contacted Diskin, he said, claiming they, too, had been sexually assaulted by McNeill as children.

Sisneros' other witness was one of those women. Looking straight at McNeill, with little emotion, she described how he had sexual contact with her numerous times from the ages of 7 to 17.

When the woman was 14, in 1989, she said, her brother found out what was going on, and the next day police met her at her school. McNeill was arrested, but then, embarrassed and feeling pressure, she recanted her story.

Charges were dropped against McNeill, and, the woman said, the day he was released, he showed up. "He grabbed me by the neck, held me up against the wall, and said if I ever told anyone again, he would kill me," she said.

She said the abuse only stopped when she turned 17 and became pregnant with another man's child, which, she said, "disgusted" McNeill.

His attorney, Bob Gundacker, worked to show that the woman's memory of when events happened was vague.

He asked if she had lied to investigators in 1989.

"I didn't lie. I omitted because I was embarrassed" that she had reciprocated when McNeill fondled her.

Sisneros was about to call a third witness when Ainley, noting that it was about 5 o'clock, said, "Normally, I try not to interrupt, but I would find proof evident, presumption great at this time.

"Based on the totality of circumstances, I am going to find a basis for the non-bondable status," she said.