A Florida man who represented himself in court and usually shouted his arguments at jurors was found guilty on Monday of killing his girlfriend and daughter and guilty of trying to kill his son. Ronnie Oneal III, 32, had notably given a rambling opening statement and closing argument in which he denied wrongdoing in the 2018 murders of Kenyatta Barron, 33, and Ron’Niveya Oneal, 9, but admitted to certain elements of the state’s case.
“I did kill Kenyatta Barron, but I want you to tell it like it is if you’re going to tell it,” he said, stating something that the prosecution would agree with.
Oneal beat Barron, killed her with a shotgun, and used a hatchet to slaughter Ron’Niveya, who lived with autism and was non-verbal, prosecutors said. The defendant set the house on fire, they said.
“The brutal bludgeoning of Kenyatta Barron was just the opening act,” prosecutor Ronald Gale said in closings on Monday. “The defendant was just getting warmed up.”
At trial, Oneal tried to convince jurors that 911 audio and other evidence was falsified by law enforcement. But prosecutors presented testimony of Oneal’s own son, who survived the grisly attack.
The boy, who was 8 at the time of the murders, testified last week that his father stabbed him after attempting to light him on fire. First responders testified that the child fled the burning home suffering bad burns, a collapsed lung, and what was described as a gaping wound to his belly.
Oneal suggested that the child’s story was coached by law enforcement, citing the fact that his son was adopted by an investigator on the case.
But the child was firm in his account during the surreal cross-examination.
“Did I hurt you that night of this incident?” Oneal asked.
“Yes,” the child said, delivering testimony remotely.
“How did I hurt you?” Oneal said.
“You stabbed me,” he said.
Defendant Oneal was convicted of first-degree murder with a firearm, first-degree murder with a weapon, attempted first-degree murder with a weapon, first-degree arson, resisting an officer without violence, and two counts of aggravated child abuse.
He was briefly declared incompetent in 2018 to face trial but was eventually cleared to contest the charges against him.
Gray said, “I was trying to deescalate the situation. I was like she’s not moving now, I was trying to get him to back away so I could see if she was OK.”
— HeatherLeighWFTS (@HLeighWFTS) June 14, 2021
The penalty phase of the trial is set to begin Wednesday.
Oneal faces the death penalty for these crimes. The penalty phase of this trial is expected to start Wednesday.
— Ryan Smith (@RyanReports) June 21, 2021
During a pre-trial hearing in May regarding his desire to go pro se, Oneal welcomed the possibility of a death sentence, according to The Tampa Bay Times. When warned by Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco about the potential consequences of losing the case, Oneal compared himself to the rapper Notorious B.I.G. Sisco pointed out Biggie was murdered.
“Just like I’m going to be, right?” Oneal said. “I was murdered a couple times already before. So I’m cool with being murdered again and coming back like B.I.G.”
Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.
[Screengrab via Fox 13 Tampa Bay]
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