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Brother offers $10,000 reward in 1975 cold case

The case has been cold for more than three decades.

Patrick O'Neill
Patrick O'NeillRead more

The case has been cold for more than three decades.

In 1975, on the day before Halloween, Patrick O'Neill interrupted a burglary in his family's South Jersey farmhouse. As he opened the door to step into the kitchen, a gunman fired a shot from a .22 caliber pistol. The bullet struck the 17-year-old in the head.

The gunman, who had been hiding behind a counter, then stood over the wounded Deptford Township High School senior and pumped two more rounds into his skull.

"It was pretty much an execution," said Bernie Weisenfeld, spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosector's office.

O'Neill's body was found 40 minutes later by a friend who had stopped to return an eight-track tape.

Today, O'Neill's older brother, Michael O'Neill, and the prosecutor's office offered a $10,000 reward in hopes the money might awaken dormant memories. Anyone with information is asked to call (856) 384-5645.

The case began to thaw in October when a detective in the Prosecutor's office uncovered new evidence. Lt. Bill Perna, a retired state police investigator, was instrumental in reviving the inquiry. Weisenfeld said Perna "has people of interest in this case" and has been conducting new interviews.

The scene of the crime no longer exists. The farmhouse at 1154 Almonesson Road was demolished long ago.

Thirty-five years ago, the Inquirer reported that a television taken from the house had been found in the backyard. The victim's father, design engineer Joseph O'Neill, said the house had been broken into five times before the slaying.

O'Neill had returned home an hour earlier than usual.

"He just happened to walk in at the wrong moment," Weisenfeld said.

The bespeckled, industrious teen had attended high school classes in the morning, then worked for a contractor as part of a vocational education program. He planned to be a carpenter.

In its plea for new leads, the Prosecutor's Office suggested that Perna had been pursuing alternative theories.

"There was speculation at the time about why a burglary would end in a homicide, especially when there appeared to be no struggle between the assailant and the 130-pound victim," the office said.

Anyone with information can contact Lt. Perna at 856-384-5645. To submit an anonymous tip on the Web, go to