NATICK — Nearly 40 years after George MacNeill was sentenced to life in prison for strangling his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend in Lynn, he has been denied parole, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s Office.
MacNeill, who was 16 at the time, was convicted in 1983 of strangling Bonnie Sue Mitchell inside a bathroom in Pine Grove Cemetery, Lynn.
“When I heard the words ‘parole denied,’ I was relieved,” said May Hitaj, Bonnie’s niece. “I was just 6 when it happened, but she was the most important person in my life.”
While MacNeill was sentenced to life without parole, he became eligible for release in 2013 when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled juveniles could not be sentenced as adults.
MacNeill told the board he wasn’t sure whether he used a rope or a dog leash to strangle Mitchell. But after he did, he used a cord to tie her body to the toilet. He then bragged about the murder to friends, according to court documents. When they didn’t believe him, he took them to the crime scene where he poked her lifeless body as it lay on the bathroom floor. He later confessed to the killing to police in the presence of his grandfather.
MacNeill, who rocked in his chair while he testified before the seven-member parole board, told members he had little memory of the murder. But during the trial, his defense team argued he killed her to protect his pregnant girlfriend, Tracy Mullarkey, then 14, alleging Mitchell had beaten her up.
During the parole hearing, board members asked MacNeill to describe his time in prison. He told them he spent years in treatment at the Old Colony Correctional Center, a medium security mental health facility in Bridgewater, as well as Bridgewater State Hospital. In addition, he attends mental health support groups in jail and takes prescription medication for anxiety and depression, he said.
During his years in prison, MacNeill said he received his GED and has taken a veterinary course. If paroled, he planned to continue therapy and reconnect with his family.
Asked whether he understood his actions in the teen’s murder, MacNeill replied “Yes.” He added that he has felt “horrible” for 38 years and to this day does not understand why he did it.
“There is no reason it should have happened,” he said.
MacNeill’s release was supported by his stepfather.
But it was opposed by Hitaj, and Bonnie’s two sisters and a brother. Essex County Assistant District Attorney Kristen Buxton also testified in opposition.
In its decision, the seven-member panel ruled MacNeill, now 53, is “not yet rehabilitated and his release is incompatible with the welfare of society.”
The board will reconsider his parole in 2022.
But Hitaj said she and her family dread seeing MacNeill again in three years.
“Knowing that in three years we have to go through this again makes me angry,” she said.
“When he was sentenced to life in prison without parole we thought that was the end of it,” Hitaj said. “But now it’s a nightmare that will reoccur every time he comes up for parole.”