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10:37 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Convicted kidnapper, child molester shaves 7 years off his prison sentence

Eric G. McNeill

Eric G. McNeill

PRESCOTT - Eric G. McNeill, sentenced to 27 years in prison last December after a jury found him guilty of kidnapping and a child sex charge, on Monday was able to knock seven years off his prison term because of an error on the jury's verdict form.

McNeill, 66, was accused of sexual contact with three girls. One set of charges dealt with a victim under 15 years old in 1986; a second with a victim over 15 in 1989; and the third a victim under 15 in 2011. Seven counts were dismissed throughout the course of the trial.

McNeill's case was featured on the "America's Most Wanted" television program in September 2012 and, based on tips authorities received, they determined he was in southern Oregon. On Sept. 19, 2012, U.S. Marshals spotted McNeill's vehicle at a roadside campground. With help from the Klamath Falls Police Department and Oregon State Police, they took him into custody without incident.

On Dec. 5, 2013, the jury in his trial came back with two guilty verdicts, one for kidnapping and a second for sexual contact with a minor under 15. They deadlocked on 13 other counts, and Superior Court Judge Celé Hancock, sitting in for Judge Tina Ainley, declared a mistrial on those charges.

But there was a problem with the forms the jury used to record its verdict. "He was convicted of a count that he wasn't charged with," Yavapai County Public Defender John Napper said.

McNeill first appealed the verdict. However, he agreed to drop the appeal if he was able to make a deal for a 20-year sentence rather than a 27-year sentence.

The County Attorney's Office agreed, and Monday, after a bit of legal wrangling over the kind of a plea he would make, McNeill pleaded "no contest" to both a count of kidnapping per domestic violence and child molestation.

Ainley noted that the plea stipulated a 20-year flat-time sentence, meaning McNeill is not eligible for early release under any conditions.

He will also get credit for 751 days already served.

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