A Florida man’s trial on charges of murdering his girlfriend and nine-year-old daughter took a bizarre turn when the judge praised his performance in representing himself – after he was found guilty.
Ronnie Oneal III, 32, was convicted on Monday of two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder and one count of arson in Hillsborough County court.
Oneal was accused of killing his girlfriend Kenyatta Barron and daughter Ron’Niveya Orneal, critically wounding his eight-year-old son, Ronnie IV, before burning their house down in March 2018, according to Fox 13.
After handing down the conviction Judge Michelle Sisco praised Oneal for serving as his own defense instead of using a lawyer, as she urged him to seek proper counsel before sentencing later this week.
‘I’m really going to strongly encourage you to consider allowing counsel to now step in and represent you. I have to tell you, I think in another lifetime, you would have been an outstanding lawyer,’ Sisco said.
Oneal responded to the comment by nodding his head.
Ronnie Oneal III is displaying evidence while representing himself during closing arguments for his murder trial at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, June 21, 2021
Judge Michelle Sisco urged Ronnie Oneal III, 32, to secure a state-appointed attorney, but he allegedly nodded when she made that comment
Ronnie Oneal III becomes emotional while representing himself during closing arguments for his murder trial at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, June 21, 2021
Ronnie Oneal III is seen to hold his hands firmly together during closing arguments against him at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, June 21, 2021
He was heard yelling at investigators and the judge with profanity and stating they ‘tampered with evidence’ to make him guilty of murdering his wife, daughter and stabbing his son.
It was during the closing argument that the judge warned Oneal to stop using profanity.
He had admitted to killing his wife, but denied murdering his girl and trying to kill his son on Monday.
‘I want you to know the actual facts,’ he told jurors. Then, turning to prosecutors, he said, ‘I did kill Kenyatta Brown. But I want you to tell it like it is, if you are going to tell it.’
The suspect’s trial has been abundant with emotion from many sides, but his son’s testimony weighs heavier than anything else.
The accused father kept his composure while asking his son how he was doing during his first conversation after three years.
‘It’s good to see you, man,’ he told his son.
His son replied back ‘It’s good to see you, too.’
He then went on ask. ‘Did I hurt you that night of this incident?’
‘Yes,’ the boy replied.
‘How did I hurt you?’
‘You stabbed me,’ his son said back to his father.
Ronnie IV also said he saw his father holding a shotgun at his mother while she was screaming.
Prosecutor Ronald Gale stated during the closing argument that the state had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Oneal was guilty of the double murder and attempted murder. He also played a 911 call that included screams from Barron.
‘This has been a very emotional case, and the evidence and testimony has been by turns gruesome and disturbing and just heartbreaking,’ Gale said while asking the jury to put those emotions aside and deliberate on the facts.
Ronnie Oneal III listens to a jury poll after the verdict was delivered for his murder trial at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse in Tampa on Monday June 21, 2021
According to prosecutors, Oneal wounded his wife with an ax on her back and head on March 18 in 2018. She managed to stumble outside when Oneal chased after her and hit her with a shotgun tree times before shooting her dead.
He then turned toward his 9-year-old disabled daughter who had cerebral palsy and could not talk and allegedly killed her. She died of multiple stab wounds. And, his son was his last victim to be stabbed.
He was later arrested in in the same month, but pleaded not guilty to murdering of his wife and daughter in April 2018.
The State Attorney’s Office stated that they would seek death penalty in May of the same year, but he was found not competent to stand trial in October 2018. His parental rights were terminated in December of that year.
However, his competency was no longer of question later in 2019.
The Department of Children and Families sent a letter to the judge in May 2019 concluding that ‘The treatment staff are of the opinion that this resident is competent to proceed and no longer meets criteria for continued involuntary commitment.’
The judge then decided that Oneal was competent to stand trial in June 2019 and the jury selection process began two years later in June 2021.
Oneal even made a comment saying that he deserved a death penalty on June 8.
‘When it comes to the death penalty, I just want to let you all know that, me personally, I am for it. If somebody has committed these crimes, they are worthy of death,’ he said.