Guest post: David V. Neily. A case overview by Sue Carney
David Neily at his daughter’s wedding, July 2005
“Love has no boundaries of time or space. It survives forever without nourishment or encouragement
to flow forth as the pure water from the blossom of the Earth’s Heart.”
This poem was written by David Neily, a creative and artistic man who has been missing since 2006. On a blog about David, his daughter, Lisa, describes the kind of man he is. It’s clear that David endured many troubling times in his life, from physical and verbal abuse as a child, to battling depression as a teenager and into adulthood, but in reading about David, I was struck by his creativity — at various times in his life he had been a draftsman, an inventor, a carpenter and a mechanic — and by a sense of his gentleness, compassion and honour. I found myself asking, what sort of man would call his dogs Freedom, Liberty and Justice?
On 14 April 2006, sixty-nine year old David Neily went missing from the Westport area of California. Prior to his disappearance, David is believed to have visited the property of one James De Noyer. In fact Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department have described Mr De Noyer as a ‘person of interest’ in this investigation although, to my knowledge, he hasn’t been interviewed about this case since 2006.
According to an interview with David’s son, Ryan, David’s involvement with James De Noyer began in June 2004. According to Ryan, James De Noyer had agreed plans for David and Ryan to build a shop on his land. However, at some point after that, there was a disagreement, causing David to leave suddenly without his equipment and truck. A few months after this first argument, David Neily disappeared for a brief period but was found by police, having had car problems. His family say this wasn’t unusual, especially if he was off his medication. He later travelled on to Westport although, according to Ryan, his family thought he was going to Santa Cruz. It was after this incident that David returned to James De Noyer’s property to collect his truck, despite warnings from his family not to go there alone. Thad, a neighbour of Mr De Noyer’s, reported hearing five gunshots between 2 and 3 am, on the day of David’s disappearance. Did police investigate whether James De Noyer, or anyone else on his property, were in possession of any firearms?
As if that weren’t suspicious enough, Ryan returned to James De Noyer’s property a few months later, to search for his father. Whilst there, he found David’s dog, Justice, locked in a truck. According to his children, David would never have willingly left his dog behind. During this visit, Ryan met Ron Baumeister, an associate of Mr De Noyer’s, who told him that David had driven away in his Mustang, 3 – 4 months earlier. However, on further inspection Ryan found that David’s cars, a 1977 Ford Thunderbird and a 1967 Ford Mustang, still on James De Noyer’s property. David’s glasses and wallet were found in the Thunderbird and the Mustang wasn’t running, which seems to contradict Ron Baumeister’s story that David had driven off in it. Ryan speculates that David might have worked on the car before his disappearance. Police later recovered both vehicles. I’d very much like to know if any forensic tests were carried out on them and if so, with what result? Police were also able to confirm that there had been no activity on any of David’s bank accounts in the time since his disappearance.
James De Noyer’s property, a ranch covering some 20 acres, backs on to thousands of acres of public land. He is also reported to own 288 acres of undeveloped land in Lake County. Ryan Neily remembers James De Noyer being fanatical about clearing his land by burning, and speculates that this would prove a convenient way for him to have disposed of a body. After the discovery of David’s vehicles, police cadaver dogs searched James De Noyer’s ranch, but found nothing. Did this search include James De Noyer’s other property or extend to the public land beyond his ranch?
On further investigation, a picture forms of the despicable man James De Noyer is: Ruthless, potentially corrupt, uncaring, and bad tempered. On December 27, 2005, Mendocino County’s Animal Control seized 36 horses from his land. All but two of them were near death due to starvation and poor living conditions. One of the horses later died. During his trial, James De Noyer refused to accept responsibility for the poor condition of the horses, blaming his poor choice of employees as the main cause. In the two years leading upto the trial, 29 of the horses were sold to Mark Scripter of Ventura County, later shown to be James De Noyer’s brother in law. The first result was a mistrial but James De Noyer pleaded guilty the second time around.
Ryan Neily also remembers times when James De Noyer’s temper would be out of control. James De Noyer’s uncle, Donald ‘JC’ Cavanaugh also went missing in suspicious circumstances in March 2005, almost a year before David’s disappearance. Since then, Ron Baumeister, possibly the last person to see David Neily, has also disappeared. Is it possible that these three men made James De Noyer so angry that he lost his temper, and killed them? Ryan Neily and others investigating David Neily’s disappearance certainly think so.
David’s case was entered in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, NamUs in February 2009. Details of his appearance and distinguishing features can be found here. NamUs also lists the investigating officer in this case as Detective Lorenzo, of Mendocino County Sheriffs Office. Lisa and Ryan have both given DNA samples, for use in the identification of any remains thought to be those of David, but no remains have, as yet, been found.
Anyone with further information on the David Neily case should contact the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, detective unit at 707.463.4111, and refer to case #06-1611.