On November 13, 2020, convicted killer Rodney Patrick McNeal is set to be granted parole and released from a California prison, without having to fully serve his sentence, due to Governor Gavin Newsom commuting (or shortening) Mr. McNeal’s sentence.

On March 10, 1997, former San Bernardino County Probation Officer Rodney Patrick McNeal brutally murdered his wife, 39-year-old Debra Marie Crow McNeal, and unborn child Samara, in Highland, California.

Mr. McNeal was initially sentenced to 30-years-to-life in prison for the murders but has recently been granted parole and release on November 13, 2020.

According to Debra’s daughter and Mr. McNeal’s step-daughter, Shantel Haynes (who was 13-years-old at the time of the murders), the relationship between Mr. McNeal and her mother was blatantly violent. Records show that several domestic violence calls were placed throughout the duration of her relationship with Mr. McNeal, but Debra had a difficult time leaving this abusive relationship.

“It looked like they were just playing around,” Shantel recalls the first time she witnessed the violence. “He [Mr. McNeal] took her [Debra’s] arm and bent it up behind her back really hard. She yelped in pain, and I knew that wasn’t normal. My brothers started to cry and we [Debra’s four children] were all panicking, and I started screaming, “Let go of my mom!”” 

The violence Mr. McNeal inflicted was not limited to only Shantel. She remembers how Mr. McNeal treated her and her three siblings. 

“There was just something off about him, and it was horrible when he was around. He would try to take our mother away from us. He wanted to make sure she felt isolated from friends and family. He would stalk her to make sure she could not see her kids.” 

Debra Marie Blackcrow and her 4 children. (Shantel Haynes pictured in the red shirt.)


Shantel remembers how excited she and her siblings were when their mother shared she was finally going to leave Mr. McNeal. 

“I have to go back to get a few things. I am coming back for good,” Debra told Shantel the day before her murder.

This was the last time 13-year-old Shantel would speak to her mother. With hope for a new life on the horizon, Debra went back to her shared residence with Mr. McNeal to get her things and to collect a tax return check. 

Three of Debra’s children during happier times.

Sadly, Debra never left the shared residence alive. She was found in the residence after Mr. McNeal told a neighbor to call 911. 

According to Terry Lynn, Debra’s best friend, Debra went back to the residence she shared with Mr. McNeal to collect a tax return check in order to claim her children as dependents. At this time, Debra was living in Las Vegas while her children lived with their biological father in California.

During his incarceration, Mr. McNeal has made claims on a couple of occasions that Debra was after his money. This statement is not true as Shantel stated that her six-month-pregnant mother was left nearly penniless by Mr. McNeal when he drained their shared bank accounts more than once.

According to Terry Lynn, once the police investigators left the crime scene following Debra’s murder, Mr. McNeal went to the mailbox to retrieve the check Debra desperately needed.


Patrick’s girlfriend hit us for almost 1/2 his income so money is going to be short and far in between or until I or he can get a better paying job. We’re putting a few gifts on layaway so think about what you want. I have to go, but I’ll call you later. I love you all. Love, MomP.S. Keep praising the Lord. He takes care of us.


In 2000, Mr. McNeal was convicted and sentenced to 15-years-to-life in prison for the killing of Debra, and a second consecutive sentence of 15-years-to-life for the killing of Samara. 

In 2015, the California Innocence Project agreed to take Mr. McNeal’s case. They believed there was substantial evidence to prove that someone else committed the murders of Debra and Samara McNeal. They were unable to convince the courts of their belief. California Governor Gavin Newsom became aware of Mr. McNeal’s case and decided in March of 2020 to commute Mr. McNeal’s sentence, paving the way for Mr. McNeal to seek parole.

Shantel Haynes is working incredibly hard to make sure Mr. McNeal, her mother and baby sister’s killer, stays in prison. She spoke directly to many members of the California Innocence Project, expressing both her frustration and fear for her life if Mr. McNeal were to be released. 

In particular, she expressed that Raquel Cohen with the California Innocence Project shared little care for Shantel’s story. “‘Even if he is guilty, we have worked so hard on this case that we have to see it through,’” Shantel claims Raquel said to her in a phone conversation. 

Shantel feels that the California Innocence Project holds little regard for the lives lost. In fact, according to Shantel, the California Innocence Project defined Debra as a white woman when in fact she was a proud indigenous woman of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe, demonstrating the organization’s carelessness and blatant disrespect for victims. 


On Wednesday, September 3, 2020, a parole hearing convened, yet there was a split decision among the two commissioners hearing Mr. McNeal’s case, as to whether he should or should not be granted parole. On Tuesday, October 20, 2020, a board of commissioners decided to grant parole to Mr. McNeal.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office adamantly opposed this decision which we expressed in the article, Convicted Killer Granted Parole; District Attorney Jason Anderson Responds.


San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson was appalled by the parole board’s decision. 

“The parole board’s decision regarding double-murderer Rodney Patrick McNeal strips away the notice and reliance the victims’ family placed in the criminal justice system. These ideals are the bedrock of an ordered society. Today, in this case, those ideals were discarded by government bureaucrats in favor of a man who killed his wife and daughter,” said Mr. Anderson.

Letter from District Attorney Anderson to Governor Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsome agreed to shorten Mr. McNeal’s sentence claiming Mr. McNeal “committed himself to his self-improvement” during his sentence. The problem with this claim is that Mr. McNeal has demonstrated a continued lack of respect and adherence to rules and laws while in prison. Mr. McNeal was caught with cellphones and the highly addictive drug heroin…which begs the question if this contraband is proof that this convicted killer is working towards bettering himself.

While both Mr. McNeal and the California Innocence Project point fingers at Mr. McNeal’s half-brother, Jeff (who is also serving time in prison as a convicted killer), the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, the jury which heard this case, and Shantel Haynes firmly believe Mr. McNeal is to blame. 

“I knew it was him,” Shantel said. “Even at my mother’s funeral, Uncle Jeff was crying and showing true emotion while Mr. McNeal just sat there. He didn’t carry the casket or help put my mother in her resting spot. That’s your wife and child….dead. It doesn’t sit right.” 


Shantel is tirelessly fighting for the justice of her mother and unborn sister in hopes to keep Mr. McNeal behind bars. Please sign Shantel’s Change.org petition to have Mr. McNeal stay behind bars for the crimes he committed against Samara McNeal and Debra Marie BlackCrow.

Here are some letters leaders have written in support of keeping Rodney Patrick McNeal behind bars:
San Bernardino District Attorney Jason Anderson
B.E. A S.H.E.R.O. Foundation
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe
Representative Tamara St. John – Attorney for the South Dakota House of Representatives


Does Debra’s story sound like your own situation or someone you know? If so, help is available and it is literally a phone call or click away. If you are in a situation which may get worse quickly, please call 911.

If you need resources, you can always reach out to one of our victim advocates by clicking on the yellow and blue chat bubble at the bottom of each page, or by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.