Eddie Ricky Nealy is headed to death row. The 56-year-old was convicted of raping and killing a 14-year-old girl back in 1985.
Nealy's attorney tells Action News his client expected the death sentence, even wanted to go to San Quentin. Now that he's getting his wish, there's a good chance he'll never leave the waterfront prison until he's dead.
A gruesome crime and a young victim added up to a death sentence for Eddie Nealy. 28-years after Jody Wolfe's battered body was dumped in a Fresno canal, a jury of 12 decided Nealy should be executed for the attack.
"It was a tough case, tough subject matter, graphic testimony and horrific testimony," said prosecutor Steve Wright. "Unfortunately, they had to listen to it and look at it, but in the end, they made the right call."
The 1985 crime went unsolved for almost 20 years before DNA evidence tied Nealy to Wolfe.
In the meantime, he was convicted of two more rapes and prosecutors say he killed another woman. But Nealy insists he didn't do anything to the teenager whose death could now end his life.
"Our focus now is to attack by way of appeal the guilt part of this trial because I still can't wrap my head around how you can convict a guy of murder and rape when there's no physical evidence of either," said defense attorney Eric Green. At Nealy's suggestion, Green chose not to even argue against the death penalty, deciding Nealy shouldn't ask forgiveness for something he didn't do.
He even wanted the ultimate sentence, and the privacy it provides inmates.
"I think Eddie was hoping for death because it gives him a cell by himself," Green said. "It doesn't expose him to general pop(ulation) where he's exposed to the rest of the people in the prison."
Next month, Green will ask the judge to reduce the sentence to life without the possibility of parole. If that fails, Nealy will begin the slow journey to San Quentin's death chamber.
Right now, there are 741 people on death row. Nealy would be the 17th from Fresno County. The average stay there is 28 years. If that held true for Nealy, he'd be 84 years old when he's executed. Nobody that old has ever been put to death in California.
Jody Wolfe's family members were not in court for the verdict, but one of them tells Action News he is glad justice has been served and they are just sorry it didn't come before Nealy took other victims.