Ronnie Oneal, acting as own attorney, thanks detective who adopted his son after alleged double murder

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – Ronnie Oneal III, the local man accused of killing his daughter and girlfriend and stabbing his 9-year-old son.

This week, Oneal has insisted that he act as his own attorney as court-appointed public defenders sit next to him and offer legal advice.

During opening statements on Monday, Oneal screamed at the jurors.

On Tuesday, he questioned Hillsborough County deputies, firefighters and paramedics who responded to his home and found his girlfriend, Kenyatta Barron, dead in front of a neighbor’s home. The first responders were also there as Oneal’s son came out of his burning home, with massive stab wounds to his body. Several of the first responders became emotional as they described a chaotic crime scene and finding the young victims.

Oneal cross-examined his own son on Wednesday, who told jurors he saw his father run into a bedroom with a shotgun and heard him fire a single shot. The young boy, who was eight years-old at the time, told the jury how he also watched his father take an ax and kill his disabled sister.

Oneal’s stepfather took the witness stand on Thursday and told the jury about a phone call from Oneal on the night of the murders.

“He told me Ke-Key is trying to kill me. Key-Key is trying to kill me, they’re trying to kill me,” said Billy Smith, referring to the nickname used by Oneal’s girlfriend.

The most dramatic moment of the day came when a Hillsborough County detective took the witness stand.
The detective was on call the night of the murder and responded to the crime scene, but only had minimal involvement in the case.

After the murders, as Oneal’s son was recovering in the hospital, the detective met the young boy and used his connections with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to try and cheer the child up as he recovered from his extensive injuries. The detective says he brought the young boy gifts from the team because he had indicated he was a football fan.

“Shirts, jerseys, footballs. The Bucs emptied out the store on that one,” the detective told the court.

Later, he took the boy to a Bucs practice and eventually the boy asked him if he would come to the hospital so they could watch a movie together. The detective brought his wife to the hospital and they all bonded.

A court-appointed guardian for the child then asked the detective if he could help care for the child.

In court, there was a long pause as the veteran Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy gathered his thoughts and then told the jury, “I told him my wife and I would be happy to take him.”

The detective later adopted the young victim. Since Ronnie Oneal is acting as his own attorney, he is within his rights to cross-examine the detective and ask him questions.

When Oneal had this opportunity, he took a long moment, then stood and shuffled some papers on his desk. As he paused, the courtroom was still. No one knew what he would say or ask the detective.

Finally, Oneal said, “thank you, from the bottom of my heart to the top of my head, thank you for what you’ve done. No further questions your honor.”

Oneal is expected to begin his defense on Friday and call his own witnesses. He’ll face the death penalty if he’s convicted.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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