Jury finds Ronnie Oneal III guilty in double-murder trial
TAMPA, Fla. (WWSB) - Following a trial that included 911 recordings, as well as emotional testimony from the victim who survived, a jury has found 32-year-old Ronnie Oneal III guilty.
After deliberating for almost five hours, the jury found Oneal guilty and charged him with the following:
- Two counts of first-degree murder
- One count of attempted first-degree murder
- Two counts of aggravated child abuse
- One count of arson
- One count of resisting a law enforcement officer without violence
“These murders are among the most cruel and vicious our community has ever seen,” said Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren. “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. His punishment - his life - now sits with a jury of his peers, as it should.”
Investigators found that Oneal shot and beat the mother of his children to death with a shotgun. He then picked up a hatchet and attacked and killed their 9-year-old daughter. Then, he used a kitchen knife to slash and stab their 8-year-old son.
Oneal then attempted to set fire to the house, his daughter’s body, and his son, who was still alive. Oneal’s son managed to escape and testified remotely during trial.
Since the incident on March 18, 2018, Oneal’s son has been adopted by a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detective. The detective had limited involvement in this case.
Assistant State Attorneys Ronald Gale, Scott Harmon, and Luis Aguila prosecuted the case. Oneal served as his own defense attorney.
The same jury will remain in place for the penalty phase of the trial, which will start on Wednesday. The state will outline why the death penalty is appropriate.
Under Florida law, aggravating factors must significantly outweigh the mitigating factors to allow the death penalty. To sentence Oneal to death, a recommendation of death from the jury must be unanimous, and the judge must then agree.
If any of the 12 jurors do not recommend death, or Judge Michelle Sisco disagrees, then Oneal will serve life in prison.
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