30 YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE DOUBLE MURDERS
Bernice Ward Breeden, a daughter of Bertha Ward and sister to Betty Kennedy, spoke to me recently about the murders. She said the family had 22 deaths within two years following the murders. It was so stressful on the entire family. Bernice said it took her five years or more before she really got over the tragedy.
Harrison Lee Neeley (or Nealey), age 41, whom authorities described as a family friend, was convicted of the murders. He died in prison after serving several years for the crimes. Some believe Neeley (Nealey) was not actually guilty of these horrific crimes. He paid for the crimes, guilty or innocent. Edward Kennedy, husband of Betty Kennedy, was in the military at the time of the murders. He committed suicide in 1999. He and Betty did not have any children together. He re-married after Betty’s death and lived in Lenoir City, TN. There were no children born to this union either. Mr. Kennedy is buried in Loudon County Memorial Gardens, Lenoir City. He and Harrison Lee Neeley were related. Mr. Neeley (Nealey) had reportedly been living at the Ward residence for about a year before the double murders occurred. Mrs. Ward’s husband had died and Harrison Lee Neeley (Nealey) was living there to help Mrs. Ward with the chores.
Bertha Ward had six children with Joseph Ward; two girls and four boys. The children are Charlie Louis Ward, Bernice Ward Breeden, Gid Harley Ward, Clifford Winfred Ward, Larry and Garry Ward (twins), and Betty Jo Ward Kennedy. She had a son, Jessie, from a previous marriage to Jack Clark. Jessie took the Ward last name after his mom married Joseph Ward.
Betty Jo Ward Kennedy had three sons from her first marriage to Robert Ervin. Her sons are Bobby Joe, Howard and Monte Bremen Ervin.
Bertha Ward and Betty Kennedy are buried at the Corinth Baptist Church Cemetery in Loudon County, TN.