- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2006

A suspect in the 2003 killings of two elderly women in a Suitland flower shop was a D.C. firefighter who had graduated from a recently suspended federally funded cadet program that gives jobs to at-risk youth.

Adam I. Neal, 24, no longer works for the fire department, but fire officials would not say when or why he left or whether he was working for the department at the time of the slayings.

Mr. Neal graduated from the cadet program in June 2002. His former colleagues said he was stationed at Engine 22 Fire House, at 5760 Georgia Avenue NW, before leaving sometime in 2003.

A spokesman for Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said Mr. Neal is expected to be charged as early as today with two counts of second-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of Mary Francis McDonald, 76, and Madeline Lovelace Thompson, 73.

The women were killed Sept. 24, 2003, in the Suitland Florist Shop, which Mrs. McDonald owned.

Mr. Neal stole a car belonging to one of the women. Two and a half years later, police connected him to the crime, after the FBI completed forensic tests on DNA recovered from the vehicle. Police announced Thursday that Mr. Neal was a suspect in the killings.

He is in jail in Fairfax County for a parole violation.

Mr. Neal, who has used addresses in Prince George’s County, the District and Virginia, has a long criminal history. It includes arrests or convictions for assault and battery, vehicle theft, property and drug-related crimes and traffic offenses.

D.C. Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson recently suspended the cadet program while fire officials conduct an investigation into whether cadets lied about their residency on applications.

In addition, D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, has raised questions about the legality of the cadet selection process.

The program is funded using two federal grants for underprivileged youth.

Funds from the Youth Opportunity grant are used to recruit youth who lived in specific census tracts, typically in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty and unemployment.

Funds from the Workforce Investment Act are used to recruit low-income youth who are school dropouts, deficient in basic literacy skills, runaways or foster children, or in need of help completing an educational program or securing and holding a job.

The class Mr. Neal graduated from was rampant with violence.

The Washington Times reported in 2002 that one cadet from that class was charged with shooting and wounding another on Jan. 1, 2002, while their cars were stopped at a stoplight.

A cadet who witnessed that shooting was stabbed in May 2002 and then fatally shot outside a nightclub two months later. Police said a search of the slain cadet’s car turned up an assault rifle and a duffel bag containing ski masks and gloves.

Of that class of 18, 12 cadets graduated and seven remain on the job.

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