The 30-year old, a father of two sons, enlisted in the Navy in 2001 and was supposed to return next month from Afghanistan.
On Sunday, McNeley’s father, Encinitas deputy fire marshal George McNeley, was informed his son Justin was missing in action; taken hostage along with another U.S. sailor in the Logar Province of Afghanistan.
After the Taliban made the claim, NATO forces ramped up a massive search for the servicemen, who were last spotted Friday in an area held by the militants.
In a statement Tuesday morning, the NATO-led command said Justin McNeley’s body had been recovered Sunday.
George McNeley wrote to friends and co-workers via e-mail Sunday night regarding his missing son. “I have confirmed from posters that are being distributed in the Logar Province by the US military that my son is indeed one of the two sailors. I have no confirmation if he was the one that is indicated to have been killed, or if he is the one that has been captured,” the father wrote.
However, by Monday morning, George McNeley told friends the sad news.
“I appreciate all the prayers and thoughts from all of you have provided,” he wrote in a second e-mail. “I am sure it will be a long road ahead and will need support additional support in the coming months."
"It's a loss for the family. It's a loss for all of us,” said Encinitas Mayor Dan Dalager.
"Thank God for good kids, decent honest kids like Justin,” Mayor Dalager said. “We feel so badly for his folks. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers."
The search continues for the other missing sailor, said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a spokesman for NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban have said the captured sailor is in a "safe place" where he will not be found.
Hundreds of fliers, with reprinted photos of the two sailors, have been distributed throughout Logar province where NATO troops were stopping vehicles, searching them and those inside. NATO has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the surviving sailor's location.
NATO officials were unable to say what Justin McNeley and the missing sailor were doing in such a dangerous part of eastern Afghanistan.