Hopewell woman wants answers after granddaughter was found dead at Petersburg hotel

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PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC)– The grandmother of a young woman who was found dead in a Petersburg hotel is searching for answers.

Family members of 19-year-old Zykiria Neal are heartbroken after she was found dead at the OYO Hotel on South Crater Road earlier this year. Jennifer Thomas, who is Neal’s grandmother, told 8News that Neal was found dead in her hotel room on Feb. 6.

“I’m crushed. I feel like my life is gone. She was my everything,” Thomas said.

According to Petersburg Police, after an investigation, the medical examiner said Neal’s death was caused by an asthma attack, indicating no foul play. Although her death was caused by an asthma attack and Neal has had a history with asthma attacks, her grandmother believes there’s more to it. Thomas believes the hotel is partly to blame and that her death could have been prevented.

“She might have had an asthma attack slash heart attack but what caused it?” Thomas asked.

Thomas told 8News, Neal was in an abusive relationship and had been staying at the hotel. According to Thomas, her granddaughter told her that she had been shot at during her time there. A video taken at the hotel after Neal’s death, shows a young woman being beaten. Thomas said the woman had been wearing Neal’s clothes after she passed away.

“Petersburg is more worried about tearing down that big motel that’s empty. Worry about the one where you got the drugs and the crime,” Thomas said.

According to Petersburg Police, the department has responded to 116 calls for service at the OYO Hotel since Jan. 1.

“Those calls for service range from disturbances, assaults, thefts, drugs, solicitation, vandalism, trespassing, and a homicide,” said Captain Emanuel Chambliss, the Deputy Chief for the Petersburg Bureau of Police.

Thomas said she wants justice.

“Look at these other young ladies who have gotten hurt there. They’ve been shot and killed. When is this stuff at the OYO going to stop? When is the Petersburg police going to do something?” Thomas said.

According to Thomas, Neal’s brother, Vat’Quan Neal, had been killed in Petersburg just two years prior, also at age 19. Zykiria would have turned 20 this Friday, June. 18.

Manjit Kahlon, is the manager and does maintenance work for the OYO Hotel. According to Kahlon, they’ve remodeled and added a visitor policy restricting guests between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The hotel also requires a $50 deposit before booking.

Kahlon said there is a large homeless population in the area. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many residents needed housing, according to Kahlon.

Kahlon told 8news, City Council has reached out to see if there’s a remedy for the issues. Petersburg police officers continue to meet with other agencies on potential solutions as well.

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