Woman attacked months ago by Rancho Tehama gunman 'knew this was going to end bad'


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 Woman attacked months ago by Rancho Tehama gunman 'knew this was going to end bad'

LANCASTER, CA-NOVEMBER 21, 2017: Pictures provided by Hailey Poland are photographed at her family's home in Lancaster on Tuesday, November 21, 2017. Poland was stabbed by Rancho Tehama shooter Kevin Janson Neal in January as part of an ongoing neighbor dispute. Last week, Neal killed Poland's boyfriend and his mother. Pictured, at left, a photograph of Danny Elliott, 38, and at right, Hailey Poland and her boyfriend Danny Elliott. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)She was 500 miles away when a wild-eyed gunman killed her boyfriend, his mother and three other people in a dusty mountain hamlet in Northern California.

Now, just two weeks after Kevin Janson Neals bloody rampage ended in a hail of police gunfire, Hailey Poland said she cant help feeling that she should have been with the victims of Rancho Tehama.

“I just wish I couldve been there for them,” Poland said from her parents home in Lancaster. “Kevins dead, he got the easy way out. The world is rid of one less psychopath with a gun targeting innocent people.”

Poland knew the killer all too well. She once lived next door to Neal and carries a short scar on her torso where he stabbed her with a kitchen knife during a confrontation in January.

Poland said shes still jittery from the sound of gunfire that echoed frequently from the killers property next door, as well as the sound of violent confrontations between him and his wife.

“We all knew this was going to end bad,” said Poland, 34. “We just didnt know how exactly and when.”

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Initially, Tehama County sheriffs officials said Neals violent binge was random, and therefore couldnt have been predicted. Later, when they discovered that Neals wife, Barbara Glisan, 38, had been shot to death and hidden beneath the floor of their trailer home, sheriffs officials said her slaying precipitated the rampage.

But Poland argues that sheriffs officials ignored countless warning signs in the weeks and months leading up to the killings — including the escalating harassment Neal visited on her late boyfriend, Danny Elliott, 38, and his late mother, Diana Steele, 68.

Along Bobcat Lane, where the nights are pitch black and every voice and heavy thud carries through the air, the sounds of commotion at Neals residence came with disturbing regularity, Poland said.

A recent booking photo of the suspected gunman Kevin Neal in the shooting rampage in Rancho Tehama Reserve.“I cant tell you how many times Id hear them fight and Id hear her yell, I didnt do anything, stop! And then furniture getting flung, her screaming,” Poland said.

The Tehama County Sheriffs Office said theres no record of complaints between Neal and his wife, although deputies did take a misdemeanor battery report after he allegedly punched a woman in the face near his property in 2016.

After that, Neal began shouting insults and epithets at Elliott when hed arrive home in his mothers yellow Corvette, Poland said. Eventually, Neal began to harass Poland, her boyfriends son and the rest of the household as well.

The conflict seemed to reach a head in January, when Poland and Elliotts mother went for a walk.

Neal fired a rifle toward the pair and splintered a wooden fence post behind the women, according to Poland and sheriffs reports.

“How are your ladies day?” Poland remembered Neal saying a moment before he hopped a fence and waved a 10-inch kitchen knife at them.

Neal told them they were on private property, and Poland countered they were not. Neal accused the neighbors of cooking methamphetamine and said the fumes turned him into “what he is today,” Poland recalled.

Then he attacked.

“Literally with the snap of a finger, it was like nothing but darkness in his eyes. Its like it wasnt him anymore,” Poland said, her voice cracking with emotion.

He rushed at Poland, but Steele reached out with her arm and slowed him down. Neal and the 68-year-old woman rolled around on the ground as Neal pummeled her face.

At one point, Poland pulled Neal off of Steele. After he grabbed Poland by the hair, she twisted around and he plunged the knife into her belly.

Neal moved to attack Steele again when Poland bellowed, “Kevin! Stop!”

“He literally stopped in his tracks,” she said.

Everyone was exhausted.

“This fight went on for 15 minutes. Fifteen long minutes,” Poland said tearfully.

Poland and Steele stumbled home bloody. Neal retreated home and waited for authorities to show up.

LANCASTER, CA-NOVEMBER 21, 2017: Hailey Poland is photographed at her family's home in Lancaster on Tuesday, November 21, 2017. Poland was stabbed by Rancho Tehama shooter Kevin Janson Neal in January as part of an ongoing neighbor dispute. Last week, Neal killed Poland's boyfriend and his mother. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)Neal was arrested that day on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, among other felonies, and was jailed. He posted $160,000 bail and was back home before Poland was released from the hospital for her stab wound, which didn't prove to be life-threatening.

Acting on both a criminal complaint and a civil harassment restraining order filed by Poland after the attack, a judge ordered Neal to turn over his guns and banned him from possessing any others.

In February, court records show that Neal reported handing over a single pistol. He checked off a box on a form attesting that he had no other guns.

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But after his release, Neal stepped up his terror campaign against his neighbors even further, Poland recalled.

He set up a camera in the trees and sat on his porch with binoculars.

Records of calls to sheriffs deputies by both households showed that Neal frequently filmed his neighbors. He accused Elliott of pointing a gun at him, but deputies said footage did not support the claim.

Then there was the incessant gunfire — day or night.

Between November 2016 and this months killings, Tehama County sheriffs officials said they responded to 21 complaints in Neals neighborhood.

Many of them involved Steele and other neighbors complaining that Neal was shooting. Other reports came from Neal and his wife, accusing Elliott of yelling at them, followed by claims that the Steele home doubled as a meth lab. Searches by sheriffs deputies and firefighters turned up nothing of the sort.

Phil Johnston, the Tehama County assistant sheriff, said that — despite his and deputies belief that Neal had guns in violation of a court order — they were unable to take any action because they never received an eyewitness account that explicitly put a firearm in Neals hands.

If they had, they could have sought to rearrest him and increase his bail or seek a misdemeanor charge that he violated a court order, officials said.

In August, Neals wife filed a civil harassment complaint against Elliott, accusing him of threatening them verbally and with a gun. Elliott would flip them the middle finger when hed drive by, but he never threatened them, Poland said.

But the dispute took a toll on the couples relationship. They began to argue constantly.

In September, Polands maternal grandfather died. Poland and Elliott agreed it was a good time to “take a break” and see where they were when she came back.

But when Poland returned with her mother and sister in mid-October to see whether she should stay or go, the situation wasnt what she expected.

Elliott was angry, she said. He wouldnt look her in the eye. He said he didnt want to be with her anymore, then punched and kicked the walls.

Elliotts mother said things had gotten worse between Neal and their family in the month Poland had been gone.

“We think he was just pushing her away so that she wouldnt be there, because it was escalating,” said Kathy Poland, Hailey Polands mother. “If it wasnt for Danny, wed be planning her funeral right now too.”

joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

By: Los Angeles Times

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