Detectives Work Clues In Sweeney Homicide

Thursday, February 5th 2009, 5:29 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa police hope a new clue will be the first step toward solving the murder of a Tulsa businessman.

Neal Sweeney was gunned down in his office last September.

Police found a van Wednesday that matches the one allegedly used by the killer. Detectives are now trying to figure out whether it was the getaway vehicle.

Sweeney's memory lives on at his church, First United Methodist. The 63-year-old TU football Hall of Famer was an avid fan of fitness.

"Neal was always here encouraging people to work out, getting to know people," church member Joy Hancock said. "He was just a big personality at this place."

To honor his legacy, the church recently started the workout program Sweeney Strong. Congregation members are also holding out hope that the killer would be found.

"Everyone just wants to know what happened and why, and just close the book on it," Hancock said.

Sweeney was shot and killed in his office at Retail Fuels on Sept. 4. Police say the killing had the markings of a professional hit.

On Wednesday, authorities found an abandoned van in an apartment complex matching the getaway vehicle description.

Police say the van has Kansas plates and was stolen from the Muskogee area shortly before the murder.

 "We don't necessarily know that it's connected to Sweeney at this time," said Sgt. Mike Huff with Tulsa Police. "But the fact that it was stolen from outside the city during the timeframe of the Sweeney murder is significant in and of itself."

Police say it's one of many leads they are working, but those who know the Sweeney's say it's one they hope pans out.

"Everyone that knew him, employees, people that came here and worked out, they've all missed him greatly," Hancock said. "So it's just very important for our community to have some closure with this."

First United Methodist says the Sweeney Strong program is extremely popular. The church has even had to turn people away because there are not enough spots for everyone who wants to participate.