As news of Jordan Neely’s death is swirling online, more information is emerging about his history.
Neely was choked to death by a 24-year-old former Marine Monday afternoon on a New York City subway car. Part of the deadly encounter was caught on video that went viral this week. The subway rider who put Neely in a minutes-long chokehold has not been named or charged by police.
There aren’t many details at this point about how long he has been homeless or the extent of any mental health issues he might have suffered, but news reports surfacing this week reveal a part of Neely’s past: his mother’s murder, which made headlines in New Jersey.
Many New Yorkers recognize Neely as a street and subway performer and Michael Jackson impersonator. He has also been characterized as an unhoused man with a history of mental illness.
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In 2007, Neely’s mother, Christie Neely, was the victim of a heinous murder at the hands of her then-boyfriend, Shawn Southerland. Jordan was 14 at the time.
Southerland was convicted of murder after he strangled Christie Neely in their New Jersey home, stuffed her body in a suitcase, then dumped the suitcase on the side of a Bronx highway. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole. Neely’s family had asked for life.
Jordan testified at trial in a New Jersey courtroom and described the nature of his mother and Southerland’s relationship as “stormy” and also said they fought every day.
The case ended up making it on a season of “Fatal Attraction.”
The show went into great detail about the couple’s history and the murder. Apparently, immediately after Southerland killed Christie Neely, he left Jordan some money for food and then took off, never to be seen by Jordan again for years.
After a few days, Jordan was out of money and food. With no caretakers, he had to contact his grandparents for help.
The National Institutes of Health has conducted studies that point to a strong association between childhood trauma and mental illnesses.
“This association is particularly evident for exposure to bullying, emotional abuse, maltreatment and parental loss,” one 2018 study conclusion notes. Even instances of abandonment can impact brain development and bring on psychiatric symptoms, depression, and substance abuse disorders, according to another analysis.
Many are questioning and decrying what happened to Neely, which is sparking widespread conversation about the cruel treatment that unhoused, mentally ill people often endure.
Witnesses say Jordan entered the subway car on Monday yelling about how he had nothing to eat or drink, but he was not threatening any passengers and did not attack anyone.
As far as the latest developments in the case of Neely’s death, a medical examiner ruled his death a homicide on Thursday.
With no charges filed, activists are planning to protest outside the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to urge prosecution for Neely’s death. Hundreds of people protested on Wednesday in New York City.