Prescription fraud trial postponed because woman is target of investigation for husband’s death in fire

Fire victim Matthew Neal

Fire victim Matthew Neal

A woman whose husband died in a 2012 fire that destroyed their Charlotte home is the subject of a homicide investigation that is expected to be presented to a Dickson County grand jury soon. District Attorney-Elect Ray Crouch Jr. made that announcement in Dickson County Circuit Court Tuesday in asking for a delay in the prescription fraud trial of 34-year-old Mendy Powell Neal, now of Firetower Road in Tennessee City. Neal was scheduled to go on trial Tuesday for nine counts of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud. She was indicted a year ago as part of a scheme allegedly headed by 35-year-old January Paige Shelton of Charlotte, who prosecutors say called in unauthorized prescriptions for painkillers, muscle relaxers, sleep aids, antidepressants and anxiety medications during a year-long period while working at Dickson Medical Associates. The indictments charge Neal with picking up prescriptions called in by Shelton in Neal’s name for Hydrocodone, Xanax and Valium on nine occasions between May and December 2012, including one on July 11, the day 50-year-old Matthew B. Neal died in a fire that destroyed their home on Loggins Road off Highway 47 in Charlotte. Investigators said Mendy Neal claimed she awoke to discover smoke in her second-story bedroom around 2 am and could not wake her husband, who was asleep in a first-floor room, before she was forced to flee the flames. The couple’s two children were staying with friends that night. Following Neal’s arrest in February 2013, police opened a new investigation into the fire. On Tuesday, Crouch told Dickson County Circuit Court Judge Robert Burch that the state is investigating a homicide involving Neal that he expects to be presented to the next term of the grand jury. Neal did not speak during her appearance in court Tuesday with defense attorney Olin Baker. Burch placed her case on Judge Larry Wallace’s Sept. 8 docket to have a new trial date set. Burch is retiring from the bench Friday. Crouch would not comment on evidence from the homicide investigation following Tuesday’s hearing. During a June 2013 preliminary hearing, Det. Brian Beasley testified that Shelton confessed to calling in unauthorized prescriptions in the names of friends and her mother and that Neal asked her to call in prescriptions for her. Neal’s attorney says his client was “distraught” over her husband’s death and does not remember picking up the fraudulent prescriptions, even though the indictments charge she did so on three occasions prior to the fatal fire.