KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A man who shot and killed a young father after breaking into a Kalamazoo-area home in 2019 will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
William Jones, 37, on Friday received the mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder of Christopher Neal.
“I don’t believe in God, but if I did, I would hope that you would reap what you sow,” Neal’s widow told Jones at the sentencing hearing.
“Rot in hell,” Neal’s mother said. “I won’t pray for you ever.”
Jones broke into Neal’s house on Proctor Avenue near King Highway in Comstock Township on Dec. 1, 2019 and held Neal, his wife and their daughter hostage. Neal was ultimately shot in the head and killed. When police moved in on the house, Jones shot and wounded three officers: A Kalamazoo public safety officer was shot in the shoulder, a Michigan State Police trooper in the leg and a Kalamazoo County sheriff’s deputy was grazed on the head.
“What you did on this day was pure evil,” Kalamazoo County Judge Pamela Lightvoet said in handing down the sentence. “There are good people and bad people in this world and what you did on that day was pure evil.”
“There is no reason for you to ever get out of prison,” the judge said.
Neal, 22, was a native of Texas. He served in the U.S. Navy, where he met his wife Haley Coe, who is from Southwest Michigan.
“I cried myself to sleep every night for six months after Chris died,” Coe told the court. “I’m so broken that living feels like too much. … Dealing with the trauma does not make me feel strong. It reminds me of the (expletive) card I’ve been dealt.”
“I can no longer handle simple pleasures such as fireworks on July 4th or any day for that matter because as soon as I hear the loud bangs, it brings me back to hiding in that upstairs bedroom in my family home fearing for my life my family’s. I can’t sleep at night if I’m the only adult home. Any single bang makes me jump off of the couch like my cat jumping off the couch or my moving in the cage or my child hitting against the wall as she sleeps gives me an immediate panic attack which results in security checks throughout the night,” she said.
She hid in an upstairs bedroom with her young daughter while Jones held her husband at gunpoint downstairs. Their daughter, now 4, still misses her father, Coe said.
“‘Some days I just want to die already so I can be with Daddy,'” Coe said her daughter has told her.
Christopher Neal’s older sister tells Jones “you cannot understand how many sleepless nights you’ve caused.” She finishes by saying she wishes we in the “Texas justice system.”— Nick Ponton (@nick_ponton) July 29, 2022
One of the officers shot that night, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Officer Caleb Jones, recalled Neal as a hero who put himself in harm’s way to protect his family. He derided William Jones as a “coward.”
Another one of the officers who was shot, Michigan State Police Trooper Mark Fletcher, told the court that since then, his daughter has hugged him and said, “Dad, don’t get shot today,” when he leaves home.
Jones was convicted of 18 counts, including first-degree murder, after standing trial in June but is appealing. He declined to make a statement at sentencing, which lasted nearly two hours, though he twice interrupted when Neal’s father was speaking to insist that it was not his plan to commit “suicide by cop.”
He also said something to Coe as he was led form the court, though it could not be heard clearly on nearby microphones.