NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — A fired Florida deputy failed to follow up on 24 of 35 cases assigned to him, the majority of which were alleged sex crimes, a newspaper reported Sunday.
A Naples Daily News investigation found Collier County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael McNeely didn’t even take the most basic investigative steps in those cases, included alleged sex crimes against children.
That included the case of a man who recently confessed to another investigator that he took cellphone video underneath a 15-year-old girls skirt nearly two years ago as she waited in line at a store to pay for school supplies. Another customer alerted the girl and her mother, and they ran to the parking lot and took photos of the man and his license plate.
The case was assigned to McNeely, who never followed up, the newspaper reported. After he was fired in April, another investigator took over the case and found store surveillance video that showed the man with his phone under the girl’s skirt. He tracked down the suspect through his license plate number, and the man admitted he took the video. But he also said he switched to a new phone about a year earlier and no longer had his old one. Without the video, no charges were filed.
The internal investigation into McNeely began after another mother complained that McNeely didn’t return phone calls and messages on a case assigned to him about a 30-year-old neighbor soliciting her minor daughter for sex over social media. McNeely told supervisors he didn’t get the messages and that he called the mother several times and didn’t hear back from her. But phone records show McNeely reviewed and deleted four voicemails from the mother and that he never called her.
Investigators wrote that McNeely “had not documented anything in this investigation” for several months. When his supervisor asked him about the delay in the investigation, McNelly blamed it on not being able to reach the mother.
“This explanation to his supervisor was untruthful,” investigators wrote.
McNeely told the newspaper in a phone interview that he made “a couple mistakes,” but that he wasn’t a liar and his mistakes didn’t affect the case.
“It’s a humiliation that I live with every day,” he said. “I lost a career that I loved.”
The sheriff’s office declined to comment on the case.