The assault rifle-wielding madman who killed five people in a Northern California community shot his wife to death at their rural home and stuffed her under the floorboards before descending on a senseless rampage less than 24 hours later, officials said Wednesday.
Gunman Kevin Neal was shot to death by police after spraying bullets at Rancho Tehama Elementary School on Tuesday morning, along with several other locations, wounding 10 people, including seven children. One child remains in critical condition at a local hospital.
Neal, 44, apparently shot his wife to death Monday and cut a hole in the floorboards of their home to hide her body, Assistant Tehama County sheriff Phil Johnston told reporters Wednesday morning.
“He shot her at some point, probably late Monday…put her body in the floor and covered her up,” Johnston said. “We believe that’s probably what started this whole event.”
Neighbors told police that they had heard quarreling at the Neal home on Monday but no one alerted authorities.
“They thought it was a domestic violence incident between Mr. Neal and his wife. It was unreported to the sheriff’s office, no one called it in,” Jonhston said.
Johnston also said his deputies have responded to the Neal residence multiple times in the past after neighbors reported gunshots coming from the house.
“Every time we responded we would try to make contact with Mr. Neal,” Johnston said. “He was not law enforcement friendly, he would not come to the door. His house was arranged in a manner where we couldn’t detect him being there.”
After Tuesday’s shooting, cops seized two semi-automatic rifles that Neal had apparently obtained legally but manipulated in some sort of illegal manner, Johnston said, declining to elaborate.
It’s unclear how Neal could’ve obtained the military-grade weapons, as he had a documented history of mental health issues and was out on bail for stabbing a neighbor in January, family members and authorities said.
Neal moved to Tehama from North Carolina to try and dampen his severe bouts of paranoia and get closer to nature but things didn’t get better, his family said.
Neal often had marathon phone calls with his mother, often ranting about his neighbors running a suspected meth lab out of their home.
Kevin Jansen Neal has been identified as the shooter in the Tehama, California shooter.
“He would get wound up and I think she spent a lot of time calming him down,” Sheridan Orr, the gunman’s older sister, told the Daily News Wednesday morning. “He would be irrational, irate and uncontrollable, and scream and yell. It was difficult to manage him. I don’t know how she put up with it.”
On Monday, he told his mother he had “done everything I could do and I am fighting against everyone who lives in this area.”
A day later, after killing his wife, Neal took an assault rifle and two handguns on a 45-minute rampage through Rancho Tehama — a small town 135 miles north of Sacramento. He sported a military style assault vest that held ammunition.
It is believed that Neal began the rampage outside his home around 7:50 a.m., fatally shooting his rommate and a neighbor, authorities said.
He then stole a white pickup truck owned by one of the victims and drove toward the nearby elementary school, firing out the window at random while en route.
Witnesses described how Neal rammed the stolen truck through a school gate just before 8 a.m. before squeezing off nearly 100 rounds, killing two more people and wounding several adults and children on their way to class.
Neal set his sight on the school but was stalled when an emergency lockdown system thwarted his plans. Cops arrived minutes later and shot Neal to death, ending a horror show that authorities believe could’ve been far worse should Neal have gotten inside the school.
“It is monumental that that school went on lockdown,” Johnston said. “I really truly believe we could have had a horrific bloodbath at that school.”
The brutal Tehama assault came nearly five years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead, and just nine days after Devin Kelley killed 26 worshippers at the First Baptist Curch in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
With News Wire Services