Neal guilty in shooting death of star athlete

Published on Wednesday, 7 May 2014 22:49 - Written by Kenneth Dean, kdean@tylerpaper.com

 

A man who gunned down another man last year in the Broadway Square Mall parking lot now awaits punishment in the killing.

Ricky Neal Jr., 30, of Tyler, was convicted Wed-nesday in the Feb. 9, 2013 shooting death of former Chapel Hill football and basketball standout Chris Mass in a dispute that started on Twitter.

Neal faces up to life in prison.

Testimony began April 20 and ended after jurors deliberated for nine hours starting on Tuesday.

What started on Twitter ended with Neal and Mass in a confrontation as the two came to the mall to buy shoes.

Witness John Dews told jurors that he and several acquaintances had decided to wait at Chick fil A until the shoe store opened.

Dews testified that he and Neal had previously exchanged words on Twitter over Dews’ wife. At the Chick fil A, Neal came up and stood over him.

Dews said he and Neal then argued, and Neal egged him to come outside to fight, so he, Chris Mass and another man followed him.

“I was walking out the door to go fight,” Dews said.

Dews said Neal asked if Dews and Mass were going to jump him when he saw the other man, and Dews said he replied that he was there to fight.

But Neal grabbed a gun and pointed it at Mass, Dews testified.

“I told him it wasn’t that kind of party and started to back away from him, but he started shooting,” Dews said. “I saw Chris fall, and I just started running toward the vehicles at the main entrance.”

Dews acknowledged that he had been in prison for delivery of a controlled substance, and the Twitter disagreement was a result of Neal asking Dews’ wife why she was still with Dews.

Defense attorney Thad Davidson represents Neal, while Smith County Assistant District Attorneys Jeff Wood and Brian Jiral are leading the prosecution.

The punishment phase continues today in the 7th District Court of Smith County.