A jury today convicted a 23-year-old man of fatally shooting a stranger in Largo in a 2006 drive-by because, in the words of one witness, he didnít like the way the man was talking to him.
Lloyd Neal was sentenced to life in prison, a sentence that will run consecutively with a life sentence he is already serving for a 2007 murder.
Prosecutors maintained that on Oct. 29, 2006, Neal leaned out of a Jeep Cherokee and shot Hoeschele Thomas, 48, after the Jeep pulled up alongside Thomas in a Largo neighborhood.
Neal was not charged until 2011, after a Pinellas County Sheriffís cold case detective connected a .380-caliber projectile found near Thomasís body to a Clearwater drive-by shooting that happened a few weeks later.
In the Nov. 18, 2006, Clearwater shooting, in which no one was killed, Neal was a suspect but was never charged.
Circuit Judge Philip Federico did not allow prosecutors to discuss the Clearwater shooting during Nealís two-day trial this week.
That left prosecutors relying essentially on three witnesses. One was Jerald Grouse, who was driving the Jeep Cherokee. Another was Cheri Walls, Nealís then 15-year-old girlfriend, who testified Neal told her he had killed Thomas. The third was Markeen Prim, a friend of Nealís who also said Neal confided in him about the shooting.
Though he eluded a second-degree murder charge in Thomasís death for years, he was arrested the year after Thomas was killed in a separate slaying in Clearwater.
On Feb. 14, 2007, Neal fatally shot Julian Kaigler, 25, during a robbery that went awry, according to Clearwater detectives. Neal was convicted of first-degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence. As with the Clearwater drive-by, jurors heard nothing of that sentence.