Hillsborough deputies renew focus on March 2005 murder

- In 2005, a Zephyrhills man was driving along Interstate 75 when a bullet came through his truck's door and killed him. Now, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office hopes to shed new light on the 10-year-old cold case and is offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

It happened during the week of the Strawberry Festival on March 6, 2005. David Addison Neel, 49, was driving southbound on I-75, near State Road 54, in his 1990 Ford F250 when a bullet ripped through the mirror, then door on the driver's side. The bullet hit Neel in the chest. 

Meanwhile, the Neel family has suffered with David's loss for the last 10 years. 

"None of us were there to tell him goodbye, to hold his hand. I'm sorry, I get upset about that. And he died by himself," David's widow, Debra said.

Neel was a father of two, and the family had a tradition. Every March, they would go to the Strawberry Festival to show their cattle. 

The night he died, Neel had taken a cattle trailer to Pasco County. On his way back to the festival, around 10:50 in the morning, his truck ran off of I-75 south.

Florida Highway Patrol found Neel just before 11 a.m. His truck had crashed on the southbound exit ramp onto I-4. 

Witnesses reported seeing Neel's truck on southbound I-75, just south of Fowler Avenue. Another report came in after Neel crashed.

A single bullet hole was found in the driver's door near the side view mirror. The bullet penetrated the driver's door and the victim was struck in the upper left side of his chest.

Officers say they believe Neel was shot by a passing vehicle while driving along I-75 at the southbound exit ramp for I-4. They think the other vehicle would have been slightly ahead and to the left of Neel's truck.

"Hopefully, if there are people that only come down this time of year or something, maybe it will trigger someone's memory," Debbie Carter with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

The department has spent the last three months re-evaluating evidence, speaking with the Neel family and the detective, who broke the news to his wife when he answered Neel's ringing cell phone, found in his truck the day of his death.

"Because of the personal involvement it became with the family, it's a more emotional attachment than any case I've got," HCSO Sgt. Dale Bunton explained.

Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward of up to $3,000 for information that leads to the identification and arrest of the unknown suspect(s) in the homicide of David Addison Neel.

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