Fact Check

Was Mother of Subway Chokehold Victim Jordan Neely Murdered in 2007?

Jordan Neely was pronounced dead after being held in chokehold by another rider on a New York City subway.

Published May 4, 2023

 (Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
Image Via Gary Hershorn/Getty Images
The mother of Jordan Neely, who was pronounced dead after being held in a chokehold by a fellow rider during an incident on a New York City subway in May 2023, was murdered in 2007.

On May 2, 2023, a former U.S. Marine put a "disturbed man," later identified as 30-year old Jordan Neely, into a chokehold on a New York City subway. The altercation ended in Neely's death, as reported by the New York Daily News:

Jordan Neely, 30, who used to busk in the subway as a Michael Jackson impersonator, was on an F train heading toward the Broadway-Lafayette station in NoHo when he began acting erratically around 2:30 p.m. Monday, passengers told police.

Neely yelled and threw garbage at commuters, prompting an argument with the 24-year-old veteran Marine, cops said. The quarrel turned into a brawl as the train entered the station.

During the fight, the Marine put the victim in a chokehold and tried to restrain him, police sources said. Neely fell unconscious on the train and was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital, where he died.

Neely, a New York Police spokesperson said, had 42 prior arrests between 2013 and 2021. As later reporting would confirm, Neely's contact with the justice system began much earlier and is more complex than those incidents — he was a key witness in a trial against his mother's murderer in 2012

Neely's mother, Christie Neely, was murdered on April 7, 2007. Her body was found in a suitcase on the side of the Henry Hudson Parkway. As recounted in a February 2022 report in the Jersey Journal, "details of the murder shocked Bayonne and Hudson County at the time." 

Based in part on testimony from the then-18-year-old Jordan Neely, Shawn Southerland — his mom's boyfriend with whom the Neelys shared a house — was convicted, as described in the Journal:

Southerland, who had been living with Neely and her 14-year-old son, strangled the 36-year-old and then purchased a suitcase at a Bayonne shop. After unsuccessfully trying to stuff her body into it, Southerland returned the suitcase to the store for a bigger one.

The bigger suitcase was found on the Henry Hudson Parkway on April 7, 2007. Authorities believe Neely was killed a few days earlier. At Southerland's trial, experts testified that Neely's DNA was found inside the suitcase that Southerland returned to the store.

Southerland defended himself, and as such he cross-examined Neely face-to-face. Neely's testimony is cited, among other places, in the opening of a motion denying Southerland an appeal for post-conviction relief, where Neely is identified as J.N.:

The victim, C.N., lived in Bayonne with her fourteen-year-old son, J.N. [...] J.N. described the relationship between C.N. and defendant as "crazy," explaining that they used to "fight every day." [...] On the morning of April 4, 2007, C.N. did not wake J.N. for school as she usually did. He got dressed and went to C.N.'s bedroom to say goodbye. 

The door was closed and, as he approached, J.N. testified that defendant stepped in front of the door, and prevented him from going inside. J.N. then left the apartment. He did not hear any sounds coming from inside C.N.'s bedroom that morning, nor had he heard anything unusual the previous night. [...]

When J.N. returned home from school at approximately 4:00 p.m., defendant was in the apartment, but C.N. was not there. J.N. asked defendant about C.N., and defendant told the child he had not seen the victim. J.N. noticed that a white blanket and some of his mother's personal "accessories" were missing from C.N.'s bedroom.

J.N. testified that defendant gave him some money to buy food at a take-out restaurant and then followed the child there on a bicycle. When they returned home, defendant stated he had to leave because his aunt was "sick[,] . . . in the hospital, tied to a machine, she's getting ready to die[.]" 

Defendant took "all his stuff with him" when he left. J.N. testified defendant used to borrow a Silver Kia from someone he identified as "his aunt" and, after defendant left that night, he never saw defendant or the car again.

Speaking to the New York Post, Jordan Neely's aunt Caroline, who described herself as Jordan's closest living relative, said that the murder profoundly changed him:

"My sister Christie was murdered in '07 and after that, [Jordan] has never been the same," Carolyn, 40, said. "It had a big impact on him.  He developed depression and it grew and became more serious. He was schizophrenic, PTSD. Doctors knew his condition and he needed to be treated for that."

Carolyn, who described herself as Jordan's closest living relative, said she pleaded with judges and doctors to help get the proper care for her nephew, but to no avail.

"The whole system just failed him. He fell through the cracks of the system," she said.

Moses Harper, a Micheal Jackson impersonator who was photographed with Neely in an October 2009 edition of the New York Daily News, told CNN that the event "traumatized" Neely: 

"He disclosed that she was murdered and her body was put in a suitcase," Harper recalled Neely telling her. "It traumatized him. He was not expecting that, the brutal way she was taken. That had a big impact on him. The brutality behind that."

At the time of this reporting, no charges had been filed against the marine. 

Because relatives, friends, and public records confirm that the Jordan Neely who testified in his mother's murder trial is the same as the Jordan Neely who died on the F-train after being placed in a chokehold by a former marine, we rate this claim as "True."


"All Hail King At Jacko Premiere." newspapers.com, 28 Oct. 2009, https://www.newspapers.com/article/daily-news-all-hail-king-at-jacko-premie/124054839/.

"Criminal Charges Weighed against Marine in Chokehold Death of Jordan Neely as NYPD and Manhattan DA Confer." New York Daily News, 4 May 2023, https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-possible-charges-marine-michael-jackson-impersonator-jordan-neely-20230504-plaznkv5pjbuxaqdu2tlxpieqq-story.html.

The Jersey Journal. "Murdered Bayonne Woman's Son Testifies That Mom, Accused Killer Fought 'Every Day.'" Nj, 11 Jan. 2012, https://www.nj.com/hudson/2012/01/murdered_bayonne_womans_son_te.html.

The Jersey Journal. "Another Court Appeal by Man Who Strangled Wife and Left Body in Suitcase on New York Roadway Is Rejected." Nj, 16 Feb. 2022, https://www.nj.com/hudson/2022/02/another-court-appeal-by-man-who-strangled-wife-and-left-body-in-suitcase-on-new-york-roadway-is-rejected.html.

"NYC Man Threatening Strangers on Manhattan Subway Dies after Marine Corps Vet Puts Him in Chokehold: NYPD." New York Daily News, 2 May 2023, https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-f-train-quarrel-argument-dispute-subway-train-northbound-fight-20230502-gykvrqgwszbhnell4qhpvehv34-story.html.

Sanchez, Brynn Gingras, Laura Ly, Maria Santana,Ray. "Man Dies after Being Put in a Chokehold by Another Rider on New York City Subway, Officials Say. The DA Is Investigating." CNN, 4 May 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/04/us/new-york-subway-chokehold-death/index.html.

State v. Southerland, DOCKET NO. A-4663-11T1 | Casetext Search + Citator. https://casetext.com/case/state-v-southerland-12. Accessed 4 May 2023.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.