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Palm Beach Daily News

He stole an 81-year-old Riviera woman's purse. She fell and died. Here's how he'll pay.

By Julius Whigham II, Palm Beach Post,


WEST PALM BEACH — A judge has sentenced a 52-year-old man to life in prison after a jury found him guilty in the January 2022 death of an 81-year-old Riviera Beach woman during a purse-snatching robbery at a gas station.

Jurors on Tuesday convicted Willie Davis on charges of first-degree murder and robbery in the death of Mary McNeal. Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer immediately sentenced Davis to the life term and also imposed a 15-year sentence on the robbery charge, with the sentences to be served concurrently.

Jail and court records do not list a current residence for Davis, but indicate that he previously resided at addresses in West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach.

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Woman died at St. Mary's Medical Center days after the attack

City police accused him of fatally injuring McNeal on the evening of Jan. 31, 2022, at a gas station on the 3700 block of Broadway, just south of Silver Beach Road. Investigators said McNeal fell to the ground and hit her head after Davis approached her in the parking lot and forcefully grabbed her purse.

Paramedics took McNeal to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where she died days later. The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that she died from blunt-force injuries.

Surveillance-camera video showed Davis watched McNeal's car for more than a minute before he got out of a different vehicle and followed her, police said. After the robbery, he fled south on foot in the direction of West 37th Street. A woman seen with Davis at the gas station drove out of the parking lot and turned onto West 37th a short time later.

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Investigators: Attacker went by the nickname 'New York'

West Palm Beach police located the woman and her vehicle the next day. She told officers a man known to her as "New York" was a passenger in the vehicle the previous evening and said they were returning from an afternoon of shopping in Palm Beach Gardens.

The woman said she saw Davis holding a black bag as he ran down West 37th and she stopped to let him in. The woman said she suspected he had done something wrong, but did not know what.

West Palm Beach officers arrested Davis nearly three weeks later on unrelated drug and resisting-arrest charges. A woman who received calls Davis made from the county jail confirmed that he was the person known by the nickname "New York."

Davis was charged in connection to McNeal's death in March of 2022.

Julius Whigham II is a criminal justice and public safety reporter for The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @JuliusWhigham . Help support our work: Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: He stole an 81-year-old Riviera woman's purse. She fell and died. Here's how he'll pay.

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