LOWELL -- A 64-year-old Dracut man will be on probation for a year after police learned that while Dennis McNeil was at Tewksbury Memorial High School dealing with his son's troubles, police discovered he had a duffel bag with guns in his truck outside the school.
In Lowell District Court on Tuesday, McNeil admitted to sufficient facts to one count of improper storage of a firearm. His case was continued without a finding for one year while he is on probation. If he has no further legal troubles, the case will be dismissed.
As part of resolving the case, Judge Elizabeth Cremens said the firearm that was unsecured will be destroyed, and McNeil must forfeit the two other weapons in the duffel bag.
On Nov. 5, 2012, police were called to Tewksbury High to investigate an incident of an alleged stolen firearm. A teacher contacted school administrators that McNeil's 14-year-old son may have a knife in school. Police seized a folding knife the boy had in his possession.
The boy then told administrators he stole a firearm out of a duffel bag in his father's truck and allegedly gave it to his older brother. The boy indicated there were other firearms in the duffel bag.
When McNeil arrived at school to deal with his son, he was asked by police if he had weapons in his truck. McNeil, who has a lapsed firearms license, said there were firearms in his truck parked in the school parking lot.
Due to the proximity of the school, McNeil provided police with consent to retrieve the duffel bag from the locked truck. Inside the bag were three firearms: a Smith and Wesson .45-caliber handgun; a Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun; and a Ruger .357 Blackhawk revolver. Two of the guns had trigger locks on them, but the Ruger did not.
The boy told police that four weeks earlier, when his father went to pick up a pizza, he found the duffel bag and the firearms. He said he removed a knife and a .38-caliber revolver. He allegedly contacted his older brother, who agreed to hold the gun for him.
Two weeks later, when McNeil noticed the firearm was missing, he was told his older son had the weapon, something the son denied. When police checked the older son's apartment, they could not find the missing gun, according to court documents.
Four months before this incident, the family made headlines when McNeil reported that his 14-year-old son was missing. His disappearance led to a search by Tewksbury police, in conjunction with several other law-enforcement agencies, including the K-9, Mountain Bike and ATV units of the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, the FBI, the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office, the Middlesex County District Attorney's office and Chelmsford police.
A day later, the boy was found safe, but his 22-year-old sister was charged with misleading police and custodial kidnapping. The outcome of that case was not available.
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