Convicted child killer to be set free?

(WSVN) - Fifty-one years ago he was convicted of raping and killing a 5-year-old Broward boy. Then he murdered a 13-year-old. He also admitted to killing an 11- and a 13-year-old. And now, he wants to be set free. Will one of the horrible murderers from the 1960s be allowed to walk out of prison? Here’s Patrick Fraser with this 7News Investigation.

Calvin McNeil got the phone call that stunned him.

Calvin McNeil, brother was murdered: “Oh, man, I could have just died.”

Calvin was told Leon Holston, the man who admitted to killing his brother, was asking a judge to let him out of prison. The same Leon Holston who lived in his neighborhood in the 1960s.

Calvin McNeil: “We were told to stay away from him because he had killed a 5-year-old.”

In 1964, when Holston was 14 years old, he was convicted of raping and killing a 5-year-old boy. He was sent to the notorious Dozier School for Boys. He was released after 14 months, newspapers say, because he made good adjustments. Holston returned to his mother’s home in Pompano Beach.

Calvin McNeil: “Same neighborhood, same everything.”

Within a few months, the same thing happened. Holston was accused of raping and killing an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old on the same day.

When police caught him, old newspaper stories reported he bragged about another dead boy.

Calvin McNeil: “Y’all missing one that y’all didn’t find.’ So he took him and showed him where my brother was at.”

That was Calvin’s brother, 13-year-old Taylor McNeil — nicknamed Tally.

Holston was charged with killing all three boys, but after a jury sentenced him to death in 1966 for killing the white victim, he did not go on trial for killing Tally and the other teenager.

Calvin McNeil: “And also, he made a comment that, ‘Y’all better be glad you caught me,’ like he was gonna kill all the boys in the neighborhood.”

After the death sentence was overturned a few years later, Holston walked out of court smiling.

He was left to serve the rest of his life in prison, and without Tally, the McNeils were left in pieces.

Joanne McNeil Parrish

Joanne McNeil Parrish, brother was murdered: “The family is just not right without him, because he was fun and he was loving, and with him gone, it just tore our entire family apart.”

The McNeil family’s home later burned down, meaning there are no pictures of Tally to share from 51 years ago, but his mother sees his face every day.

Queen Esther McNeil, son was murdered: “I do. I dream about him too. I think about him often.”

Even worse, Holston sent the family a letter from prison.

Calvin McNeil: “Saying that he was sorry and asked for forgiveness.”

Then the McNeils say Holston described what Tally said in his last seconds.

Calvin McNeil: “‘Please don’t kill me because my mom is going to be worried,’ and after he realized he was going to kill him, ‘Well, before you kill me please just let me pray,’ and as he started praying, that is when he started stabbing him with the knife. About 16 times.”

The McNeil family was so disgusted, they threw Holston’s letter away.

Holston would have been in prison for the rest of his life, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled any teenager sentenced to life should get a new hearing, meaning Leon Holston will soon appear in a Broward courtroom for the first of several hearings to decide if he has been punished enough and should be set free.

Maria Schneider, assistant state attorney: “This is the indictment, filed May 26, 1966.”

Maria Schneider has many of the records from Holston’s 1966 murder trial that detail the gruesome facts. She wants the court to also consider the fact Holston admitted killing Tally McNeil and the other boy.

Maria Schneider: “We seek to have the life sentence imposed. An informed decision is that this gentleman poses a threat and that he should remain incarcerated.”

On the other side of the courtroom, Rachel Newman will try to get Holston released from prison — arguing he is not the same man who went in as a 16-year-old..

Rachel Newman

Rachel Newman, assistant public defender: “So we will have scientific testimony as to juvenile brain development and how children think and act differently. He is also blind, which is a factor that needs to be considered.”

Neither attorney knows if Judge Raag Singhall will one day set Holston free, but sitting in that courtroom will be Tally’s family, knowing what they say should be done.

Joanne McNeil Parrish: “I feel that he should not be let out because he murdered three people that I know of, and if he gets out, he is going to do it again. I don’t care how old. He is a sick man.”

The McNeil family is convinced Holston cannot change because of something he was accused of doing to Tally’s body for days.

Calvin McNeil: “The thing that he did, not only kill him, he molested him. After my brother was dead, he went back to his corpse time and time again. And you want to release that?”

Fifty-one years ago, his brother was raped and murdered. Fifty-one years later, the man who was accused of doing it is saying he has changed and should be set free.

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