Mother held in tot's 1976 death, CRIME: Police say Victoria Neal has admitted shaking her adopted daughter to death.

Date: 1994-05-21

Victoria Neal had said it was an accident. Her 1-year-old adopted daughter, Danielle, fell and hit her head. That explained the fluid on the brain that caused the child's death, although it did not account for the partially healed fractures of her legs and collarbone.

Still, Neal's explanation placated authorities in central Illinois, where the family was staying with friends when the child died. The matter was put to rest for more than 17 years.

Thursday evening, Irvine police arrived at Neal's Woodbridge apartment. A grand jury in Tazewell County, Ill., had indicted her on one count each of murder and involuntary manslaughter. She was booked into Orange County Jail to await extradition.

Irvine police Lt. Sam Allevato said it was Neal's own statements that rekindled the investigation into Danielle's death. A social worker, trying to mediate a dispute between Neal and her

14-year-old daughter, told police that Neal had admitted shaking Danielle to death, authorities said.

After being alerted by Irvine police, Illinois investigators reopened the case. They re-examined X-ray's of Danielle's injuries and exhumed her remains.

They learned that in 1979, another girl adopted by Neal had suffered brain trauma. Neal, then living in Toledo, Ohio, again attributed it to a fall, but authorities took the child away.

Neal's own daughter suffered a broken wrist in 1980 and at that time Neal admitted to authorities that she had abused her two adopted children, said Kirk Schoenbein, Tazewell County assistant state's attorney.

Danielle's death in September 1976 had aroused suspicion. Coroner's officials, finding fractures that appeared to be several months old, asked Tazewell County authorities to investigate for possible child abuse. The sheriff determined the death to be accidental.

The Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star contributed to this report.

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