TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Ronnie Oneal, the man who acted as his own attorney in his double murder trial, was found guilty on all charges Monday night shortly after he screamed at jurors and accused prosecutors of fabricating evidence during his closing argument.
After nearly five hours of deliberation, a 12-person jury returned to the courtroom Monday evening and delivered its verdict. Oneal sat in silence and did not react as he was found guilty on all seven counts against him.
He was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder for the 2018 deaths of his girlfriend, 33-year-old Kenyatta Barron, and their disabled 9-year-old daughter Ron’Niveya Oneal. He was convicted of attempted first-degree murder as well for slashing and stabbing his 8-year-old son, who survived the attack and testified against his father last week.
Oneal was also found guilty on two counts of aggravated child abuse and one count of resisting a law enforcement officer without violence, as well as one count of arson after prosecutors say he tried to set their Riverview home on fire along with his daughter’s body and his injured son.
“These murders are among the most cruel and vicious our community has ever seen,” State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement. “Sitting in the courtroom with the victims’ family, hearing a mother’s screams, seeing the horrific pictures of her daughter—it’s hard to fathom how someone can do something so barbaric.”
Oneal is facing the death penalty. According to the state attorney’s office, the same 12-person jury will remain in place for the penalty phase, which is set to begin Wednesday with prosecutors trying to outline why death is appropriate in the case.
“His punishment- his life – now sits with a jury of his peers, as it should,” Warren said.
Earlier Monday, Oneal had delivered his closing argument. Before doing so, he paused for a very long time, looked at the ceiling, rubbed his hands and then said something that no one could hear.
“Mr. Oneal, you need to speak up so the jury can hear you,” Judge Michele Sisco told him.
Oneal replied to the judge that he hadn’t started yet and said, “I was talking to my father.”
When Oneal did start his closing argument, it was much more than a whisper. He screamed at jurors, much like he did for his opening statement.
Oneal began his closing argument on Monday telling jurors the state had fabricated a 911 call made by Barron as she was being murdered.
“He showed you a fraudulent recording,” Oneal screamed as he pointed to the assistant state attorney prosecuting the case.
Then, Oneal made a stunning confession.
“I did kill Kenyatta Barron,” he said. “But I want you to tell it like it is, if you’re gonna tell it.”
Oneal said the state fabricated the evidence, claiming that he only hit Barron three or four times and not the 15 to 17 times that the state says he did.
“So they tampered with the face of Kenyatta Barron and put all these extra lacerations on her face and whoever did it is definitely going to pay,” Oneal said.
He then claimed that he only killed Barron after she killed their daughter and set her on fire.
“You don’t know what happened to my daughter,” he said. “But you better believe I know what happened to my daughter, and that is why Kenyatta Barron is dead.”
Oneal also claimed that his son had been coached to give false testimony and that his son’s statements since the murders are contradictory.
“He told you that he did not see me shoot his mom or beat his mom,” Oneal angrily barked at the jury. “He would have to have been outside to see that.”
In the prosecution’s closing argument, Assistant State Attorney Ron Gale told jurors the evidence in the case is overwhelming that Oneal, and no one else, committed the murders.
“The evidence against this defendant is mountainous,” Gale said.