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Suspect arraigned in 1972 murder case

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SMITHFIELD — For one Johnston County family, the wait is over.

Bonnie Neighbors’ family sat quietly in the center section of a Johnston County courtroom on Monday as the man charged with Neighbors’ December 1972 kidnapping and murder made his first appearance.

Sheriff’s deputies escorted 65-year-old Larry Joe Scott, who was shackled, into the courtroom. Scott returned Friday after a governor's warrant was served and transported from Bradenton, Florida, to the Johnston County Detention Center, where he’s being held without bond.

District Attorney Susan Doyle said a grand jury has indicted Scott on one count each of first-degree kidnapping and first-degree murder.

Neighbors disappeared on Dec. 14, 1972, after leaving her home on N.C. 50 to pick up her second grader, Ken, from school. When Neighbors didn’t show up, school officials called to report she and her 3-month-old son, Glenn, missing.

The search for Neighbors and her infant son was larger than any seen previously in the area. Searchers came from all over the state. Some rode horseback while aircraft including helicopters searched the skies.

The search ended when Neighbors’ body and her son were discovered in a migrant housing building off what is now Holly Grove Church Road south of Benson.

Glenn Neighbors, now 46, sat with his aunt Rachel Wheeler, Bonnie Neighbors’ sister, his stepmother Mary Neighbors and other relatives.

Scott asked for a court-appointed attorney and Superior Court Judge Winston Gilchrist approved the request. Doyle had no objection.

After the first appearance, Doyle spoke with family members in her office and then two of the family members spoke to the press.

Mary Neighbors raised Glenn and said he was shy, didn’t wish to speak to reporters and said the family shields him from the media.

“This is a difficult day, but at the same time, a great day,” said Mary Neighbors. “My husband Ken wanted to live to see this day.”

Ken Neighbors died on July 25, 2016, at the age of 83.

“We’re hoping for the truth,” Mary Neighbors said. “Ken allowed me to be very much involved and I’ve written letters to the governor and lieutenant governor through the years seeking help.”

Neighbors said she’s grateful that Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell, retired Capt. Buck Pipkin and Johnston County sheriff’s Lt. Ryan Benson never gave up since reopening the case in 2007.

“Thank goodness for DNA,” said Neighbors. “It’s DNA that brought us here today.”

“The family loved Bonnie and we deserved closure,” said Wheeler. “We still don’t know the motive or reason behind it — it still makes no sense. It’s more than I can bear to think that his (Scott’s) face was the last thing Bonnie saw before she died.”

Scott will have his first court administrative hearing on June 3.

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