Authorities arrest suspect in 1972 cold case of woman murdered with baby in arms in North Carolina

PHOTO: North Carolina authorities announced that they have arrested a suspect in the 1972 cold case murder of Bonnie Neighbors.PlayWTVD
WATCH News headlines today: April 30, 2019

Investigators in North Carolina have solved a 1972 cold case murder of a woman who was left dead with her baby still alive and cradled in her arms -- by re-testing a rape kit taken at the scene.

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Bonnie Neighbors, 33, disappeared on Dec. 14, 1972 after she left to pick up her 7-year-old son from school, ABC Durham, North Carolina affiliate WTVD reported. Her body was found days later in a migrant worker housing unit near Benson, North Carolina, with unidentified gunshot wounds. Her 4-month-old son was found alive, still in her arms, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said in a press conference Tuesday.

The infant survived in the cold for several nights before he and his mother's body were found, Bizzell said, adding that he was finally able to inform the now 47-year-old man that an arrest has been made in his mother's killing.

"I was able to look that little baby boy -- who is now a grown man -- in the eyes, and I was able to tell him we have found and arrested your mother's murderer," Bizzell said.

PHOTO: Larry Joe Scott, 65, has been arrested in the 1972 cold case murder of Bonnie Neighbors in Benson, North Carolina. Manatee Countys Sheriffs Office
Larry Joe Scott, 65, has been arrested in the 1972 cold case murder of Bonnie Neighbors in Benson, North Carolina.

The suspect, 65-year-old Larry Joe Scott, was arrested on Monday in Bradenton, Florida, after investigators at the North Carolina State Crime Lab tested a rape kit taken at the scene using technology made available in 2017, authorities said. He was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping after a DNA match.

Scott was a resident of Benson when the murder occurred but was living on the streets of Brandenton, where he would eat at a soup kitchen daily, when he was arrested, Bizzell said.

The case struck a cord with local authorities. Bizzell recalled learning about the brutal murder when he was a 14-year-old boy, he said. One retired Johnston County Sheriff's detective decided to come back to work after Bizzell re-opened the case in 2007, and the former case agent for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation -- who was 26-years-old when the murder occurred -- was present in the audience when the news of Scott's arrest was announced, Bizzell said.

Last year, authorities counted more than 15,000 untested rape kits statewide, but each kit costs $700 to test, officials said. The state's crime lab is currently raising funds to pay for the testing, officials said.

Scott is awaiting extradition to Johnston County, according to WTVD. It was not immediately clear if he has yet retained an attorney.

ABC News' Leo Mayorga contributed to this report.

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