COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The young father who was shot and killed by a home invader near Kalamazoo was expecting a second child.
Family members said Chris Neal and his wife Haley Coe only recently learned she is pregnant and were preparing to announce it. She is 10 weeks along.
A man broke into the family’s home on Proctor Avenue near King Highway in Comstock Township on Sunday night while they were just watching TV, authorities say. Three responding officers were shot when they moved into the house after hearing gunfire. All three will be OK.
Coe and the couple’s 2-year-old daughter Charolette hid during the home invasion and were not hurt.
“He (Neal) was the one who sent Charolette and Haley upstairs to hide. He protected them. He was a hero,” Jackie Dalrymple, Coe’s half sister, told News 8.
Neal’s online obituary was posted Wednesday.
“(Chris) died on December 1, 2019 while protecting his wife and daughter from tragic harm,” read the obituary. “He truly saved his family that night without thought or regard for himself.”
Neal’s relatives also shared Wednesday how grateful they are to police and to the community that’s wrapped its arms around them.
“We’re overwhelmed with love and support from friends and family here and in Texas and even people we don’t know in the community,” Dalrymple said.
Dalrymple’s church, Freshwater Community Church in Paw Paw, has rushed to help as well.
“Just please let people know how immensely grateful we are,” continued Dalrymple.
Neal, a Navy veteran who was starting a job with Duncan Aviation, was going to be the main breadwinner while his wife, Haley, stayed home with the kids and went to school.
An online fundraiser has been created to support Neal’s wife and children.
“We have been overwhelmed with questions of how to make donations,” read a statement on the fundraising page. “This page was created in hopes to provide anyone wishing to help the Neal family rebuild and relearn life after losing their hero, protector and rock.”
Dalrymple said the couple planned to put down roots in Comstock Township and create a homestead on Proctor Avenue.
The home, once their grandmother’s, had been in the family since the 1960’s.
“But now, no one even wants to be there,” Dalrymple said through sobs.
For now, Coe and Charolette are staying with family members.
Neal, 22, was a Texas native and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. That’s where he met Coe. His obituary said the “energetic”, kind-hearted and devoted husband and father loved baseball, snowboarding and cars.
“To know Chris is to know his love and devotion to his family and friends, particularly Haley and Charolette whom he doted on every day. Chris will be remembered for his kind heart, his thirst for life, and his sincere devotion to those he loved,” the obituary reads in part.
There will not be a public memorial service.
Suspect William Jones faces 19 criminal charges in the case, including for murder, assault and unlawful imprisonment. Authorities say he appears to have chosen the home at random. He had been released from jail only five days before the murder. If convicted of murder, he faces life behind bars.
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting says there will be strict accountability and consequences in this case.
“That someone would complete their sentence and then go on to commit a new crime, especially one as awful as this is just, something we all live in fear of,” Getting said.
According to Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert, Jones had been serving time in the Calhoun County jail for a felony charge on the illegal possession or use of a financial transaction device.
“He was convicted of that, and he was sentenced to that,” Gilbert said. “I believe he received a year in jail for that, and that’s when he was released from jail. He served his time.”
Jones was also convicted in a 2002 home invasion case in Barry County.
Prosecutors know the justice they seek will never be enough for the family and friends of the victim.
“The justice that the criminal justice system brings is entirely inadequate in a case like this,” Getting said. “We cannot do something to undo what has been done and to return Mr. Neal to his family and to his wife and to his daughter. All we can do is make sure that there is a consequence imposed for the horrific actions of Mr. Jones.”
News 8’s Susan Samples contributed to this report.