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Trial date is set for 2005 Ellabell murder case

Jury selection was completed Tuesday and a trial date was set for murder suspect and Ellabell resident George Cecil McNeal, 30. The trial is slated for Bryan County Superior Court starting April 8.

It is alleged that McNeal, at around 10 p.m. in September 2005, robbed Ellabell residents Michael and Joseph Taranovich at gunpoint before shooting both of them. Michael Taranovich, 47, died at the scene while his son Joseph, 28, survived after spending time in critical condition at the hospital.

Bryan County Sheriff’s Department Detective David Ellis worked the scene that night, before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over. Ellis said there are many unanswered questions in the case, which he hopes will be answered during the trial.

Assistant District Attorney Cris Schneider will be the prosecutor in the trial. He said most of the facts are sealed until the trial and he is not allowed to discuss the case beforehand. The indictment shows that he has 36 witnesses lined up.

Here are some of the details, according to Ellis. He said part of the crime took place in front of the Ellabell United Methodist Church on Hwy. 204.

He said the robbery and the shooting started while the three were riding in Michael Taranovich’s Mazda B4000 pick-up truck.

Ellis said the Taranoviches picked up McNeal somewhere in Ellabell, but he does not know the nature of their relationship or where they were going.

Ellis said the Taranoviches ran a fruit stand on the side of the road in Ellabell and sometimes Savannah. On the night in question, Ellis said they had watermelon in the back of their truck.

Ellis said McNeal fled from the scene and eluded police until March of 2006 when he was picked up in Massachusetts for a domestic situation.

McNeal has remained in Bryan County Jail since that time. His criminal record shows a history of drug and assault charges.

"All we can understand right now is that there was an argument and a robbery before the shooting," Ellis said. "I think the Taranoviches fought back. We should know the full story after next week."


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