Suspect in deadly assault charged with murder

AP News
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Posted: Nov 26, 2014 3:38 PM

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of raping and setting a Kansas woman on fire at a Wichita park was charged Wednesday in the death of the mother of four.

The amended charges against Cornell McNeal, 26, of Wichita, include one count of capital murder or an alternative count of first-degree murder in the death of Letitia "Tish" Davis, said Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office spokesman Dan Dillon.

Before Davis' death Saturday, McNeal was charged with attempted capital murder, rape and arson in the Nov. 14 attack.

Firefighters were responding to a late-night grass fire when they found Davis, 36. Police have said McNeal was linked to the attack by forensic evidence obtained after Davis was taken to a hospital suffering from burns on more than half her body and cuts on her head. Authorities have said investigators believe she was attacked following a "random encounter."

McNeal is being held on a $1.25 million bond in Sedgwick County. His attorney, Mark Rudy, declined to comment.

Dillon said District Attorney Mark Bennett hasn't decided whether to seek the death penalty.

Sedgwick County District Court records show that a woman whom McNeal had once dated got a protection from abuse order against him in 2007, alleging that after she broke up with him, McNeal had threatened her and had broken windows out at her home and car. That woman is not the same person as the victim in the park case, police said.

Court records also indicate McNeal has a criminal history that includes misdemeanor convictions for criminal trespass and theft.

He was also charged with battery in a 2009 case that he appealed from municipal court to district court. He eventually pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to time served.

Family members held a memorial for Davis on Sunday evening in the park where she was found, remembering her as a loving mother. Marcie Bell, the daughter of Davis' fiance, told the Wichita Eagle that Davis was "truly a beautiful person."