Tampa, FL – A man who insisted on serving as his own attorney at his death-penalty trial unleashed a tirade and screamed at the jury during opening statements on Monday.
Ronnie Oneal III is charged with 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, WFLA reported.
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.
On June 14, Oneal paced the courtroom as he gave his opening statement, with the public defenders assigned to his case sitting nearby.
He sounded angry and screamed at the jury as he claimed that the case against him was entirely fabricated, WFLA reported.
“By the time this is all said and done, you will see who is the mass murderers in Tampa Bay,” Oneal told the jury.
Then he went on to tell the jurors that the 911 calls prosecutors had played for them of his girlfriend begging him for her life were not real, WFLA reported.
“Law enforcement tampered with evidence to meet their such high burden of proof,” Oneal explained.
James Gray, a neighbor of Oneal and Barron, testified that Barron had banged on his front door for help the night she was killed, WFLA reported.
Gray said the scene outside was horrific.
“There was blood everywhere,” the neighbor recalled.
He testified that Oneal’s clothing and the walls of his home were covered in blood, according to WFLA.
On Wednesday, Oneal was allowed to question Ronnie Oneal IV, the 11-year-old son that he tried to kill the same night he murdered his girlfriend and daughter, The Washington Post reported.
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.
Oneal announced he had decided to represent himself during a pre-trial hearing a couple of days before the trial began, The Washington Post reported.
His attorneys had advised him that he could not claim a “Stand Your Ground” defense at trial so he no longer wanted them to represent him.
Oneal claimed during his opening statements that it was Barron who attacked him and their children, and he shot her in self-defense, The Washington Post reported.
The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, kicked off on June 14.
Legal experts have said there are several unusual aspects of the trial, not the least of which is a father questioning the juvenile son he tried to murder, The Washington Post reported.
“If you’re looking at this trial and you ask the question: How many times does a father cross-examine his own son and question his truth and veracity? If you were to take a million cases in the jurisprudence system of the United States, it would be less than 0000001 percent,” criminal defense attorney Kevin Hayslett told WTSP.
“And the chances it would happen in a first-degree double homicide case? Just about never,” Hayslett added.