Michael Dewayne Young - described by neighbors as an acquaintance of Neeley's who recently spent a month living with her - was arrested Monday. He was charged with murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Bryan police spokeswoman Jillian Garza declined to say what might have prompted the attack but said that Young was linked to the stabbing by Taylor and a witness at the scene. She said investigators still were trying to determine exactly how Neeley, Taylor and Young knew each other.
"We know that it was not a random act," Garza said.
Young, 22, of Bryan, was arrested at about 7:30 p.m. Monday after officers received a tip that he was visiting a friend living on Frontier Street.
Neighbors described Neeley has a nice and friendly woman who often kept to herself, leaving her apartment only to walk to the store or a neighbor's home to borrow the phone. Neighbors said they knew she graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University, and that her teenage son and ex-husband live in California, they said.
Taylor was a close friend to Neeley and spent much of his time at her home, the neighbors said.
"It's awful to think that could happen downstairs," neighbor Jessica Leaming said Monday afternoon.
Leaming, her boyfriend Jose Chavaria and cousin Ryan King live in the apartment above Neeley and were the first to get to her after the attack. "I don't want to be alone. I don't want to go outside by myself. I couldn't sleep ... I kept thinking that a woman was murdered downstairs."
Chavaria said he and King heard a commotion coming from Neeley's apartment early Monday, but first assumed Neeley was just arguing with Taylor as she often did. But he said he quickly realized the noises sounded more sinister. He could hear moaning and pounding - as though something was being thrown against the wall, he said.
"You could hear Mary screaming," Chavaria said.
Chavaria and King ran downstairs and began beating on the door. Inside, they could hear Neeley trying to call out for help, but then the apartment went quiet.
The two men - armed only with pocket knives - returned to their apartment. Chavaria awoke Leaming while King grabbed a baseball bat and headed back downstairs. This time, Taylor managed to somehow unlock the door and whispered Young's name as King walked inside. The 24-year-old scanned the room, called police and then frantically began describing the ghastly scene to dispatchers.
"Thank God for Ryan - otherwise I think he would have killed [Taylor], too," Leaming said, explaining that Young escaped through a back window after hearing King knocking on the door.
Leaming and others who live on Evergreen said their street is not in the safest neighborhood. Property Manager Edward Smith said the area seems to be a haven for drug dealers and gang members. But he said since taking over in January as onsite manager for the Crown Alliance Realtors fourplexes, he has been trying to clean up the area.
Trying to decide Monday how to clean up the blood-stained apartment, Smith pondered how someone could do such a thing. Though he didn't know why, he said it sounded as through Young had a "personal vendetta" against Neeley.
"That's a lot of stuff right there for somebody that hasn't caused no problems," he said. "It was torture."
• Holly Huffman's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Bryan man was charged Monday evening in the stabbing death of a woman and the serious injury of her friend - an attack stopped by neighbors trying to help, according to witnesses.
Bryan investigators said Mary Elizabeth Neeley and friend Maxie Earl Taylor were at Neeley's fourplex on Evergreen Circle when they were stabbed just after 1 a.m. Monday
Neeley, 44, was pronounced dead at her home. Taylor, 61, was taken to St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan, where he was listed Monday night in good condition.