Founder of Keenan O'Mailia foundation dies

Tim McNeill found body of murdered 6-year-old in 1999
Tim McNeill; his wife, Cindy; and son Dylan are shown in this 2008 photo. McNeill, who died today. was diagnosed in 2007 with the same malignant tumor Sen. Ted Kennedy had.

Exactly 11 years after Keenan O'Malia was strangled and raped in the woods near Riverview Park in North Augusta, the man who found the 6-year-old's body the next day has died.

Tim McNeill, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2007, died at 12:30 p.m. today at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, according to a post by his wife, Cindy, on the MCG Health CarePage. He was 49.

McNeill, of Warren Court in North Augusta, later created The Keenan O'Mailia Candle of Hope Foundation.

"We are asking people to light a candle as a symbol that they are people who care about kids and have hope for them," he said in a 1999 Augusta Chronicle story on the foundation. A $5 donation to the foundation pays for an electric candle the donor can place in a window.

Funds were to go to area charities.

"I've seen death before," McNeill said in the 1999 interview, tears welling up in his eyes. "But a child is different; it almost ruined me."

William "Junior" Downs pleaded guilty to Keenan's murder in 2002. He was executed in 2006.

A memorial service for McNeill will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the First Baptist Church of North Augusta. Dr. Gary C. Redding and Dr. John Bryan will officiate. A private family burial will be held later.

McNeill was a native of Ware Shoals, S.C., and had lived in North Augusta for the past 27 years. He was an account executive with Phoenix Printing and had also served as vice president of Miller Printing.

Posey Funeral Directors of North Augusta is in charge of arrangements.