Tampa, FL – It took a Hillsborough County jury just over four hours to convict a man who defended himself on charges he murdered his girlfriend and their disabled nine-year-old daughter and also tried to kill their then-eight-year-old son.
Ronnie Oneal III insisted on defending himself in the double-murder trial against the advice of the judge, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco, who ordered his public defenders to stay in the courtroom beside him throughout the trial, NBC News reported
Oneal’s courtroom antics made headlines after he screamed and yelled at the jury during his opening statement on June 14, WFLA reported.
He was facing two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the March 2018 death of his girlfriend and their daughter at their home in Riverview.
Prosecutors said during opening statements that Oneal shot 33-year-old Kenyatta Barron to death with a shotgun, and then chased her out of the house and struck her repeatedly in the head, beating her to death with the gun in his neighbor’s yard when he ran out of ammunition.
Florida Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon told the jury that Oneal went back into the home after he killed his girlfriend and murdered his handicapped daughter with a hatchet, WFLA reported.
Harmon said that 9-year-old Ron’Niveya Oneal was autistic and had cerebral palsy.
He said the child was unable to speak or defend herself from her father’s attack, WFLA reported.
Prosecutors said that after Oneal killed his girlfriend and their daughter, he stabbed his son and used gasoline to set the boy and their house on fire.
Harmon said the boy survived – barely – and told deputies that his father had killed his mother, WFLA reported.
If convicted, Oneal is facing the death penalty.
Oneal fired his attorneys on the eve of his trial after they told him he could not claim a “Stand Your Ground” defense for the murder of his girlfriend and child, WFLA reported.
During the trial, Oneal questioned the now-11-year-old son whom he had set on fire the night he killed the boy’s mother.
The little boy – then only eight years old – was found with severe burns from the fire and a gaping wound to his stomach.
He was later adopted by one of the police detectives who investigated the case, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
On Monday, Oneal gave his own closing argument at the end of the trial and admitted he did kill the mother of his children, NBC News reported.
“I want you to know the actual facts,” Oneal told jurors.
Then he yelled at the prosecutors, NBC News reported.
“I did kill Kenyatta Brown,” Oneal yelled. “But I want you to tell it like it is, if you are going to tell it.”
Then he claimed he killed his girlfriend in self-defense after she killed their daughter and tried to kill their son, NBC News reported.
During his closing, Oneal accused prosecutors of having manipulated 911 recordings and call logs from the night of the murders and said that allowing the detective to adopt his son had prejudiced the son he tried to kill against him.
“You are ready to believe my son, whose statements are conflicting all of a sudden, because he has been adopted by a detective who worked in this case,” the defendant told the members of the jury. “He had no business being around him in an open and pending case.”
Prosecutors called Oneal’s claims “absurd,” NBC News reported.
The detective testified that while he was on the scene the night Oneal tried to kill his family, he wasn’t involved in the investigation of the incident.
The 12-member jury found Oneal guilty of the first-degree murders of his girlfriend and their daughter, NBC News reported.
The jury also found him guilty of attempted first-degree murder and arson.
Oneal’s trial will move into the sentencing phase later this week and jurors will decide whether to give him life in prison or the death penalty, NBC News reported.
The judge complimented Oneal on his handling of his case and said that in another life he would have probably made a good attorney.
But with that said, Sisco told the defendant that she wanted him to let attorneys represent him in the penalty phase of his trial, NBC News reported.