TAMPA, Fla. — Acting as his own lawyer, a double-murder defendant opened his death penalty trial by shouting at jurors that he did not attack his girlfriend and disabled daughter.
On Wednesday, Ronnie Oneal III cross-examined his son, forcing the 11-year-old to describe exactly how he hurt him.
The defendant claimed in a dramatic opening statement that the evidence would reveal “some of the most vicious, lying, fabricating, fictitious government you ever seen.”
Gesturing and pacing, Oneal shouted at one point during Monday’s opening: “I look alone. But I am backed by a mighty God.”
He claimed the girlfriend, Kenyatta Barron, attacked their two children and that he killed her in self-defense. The killings happened March 18, 2018, in their home in Tampa’s Riverview area.
Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon countered that prosecutors would prove Oneal wounded Barron with a shotgun, then beat her to death. Harmon also said Oneal used a hatchet to kill his 9-year-old daughter — who had cerebral palsy and could not speak — and wounded his son, then 8, with a knife.
Investigators say Oneal also set the house on fire after the attacks. The son survived and testified Wednesday by remote video that he saw his father kill his sister with the hatchet and recalled his mother being shot.
During cross-examination, Oneal asked his son, “Did I hurt you that night?” The boy responded, “Yes.”
“How did I hurt you?” Oneal asked.
“You stabbed me,” his son replied. He also described how his father set fire to the house using gasoline.
Investigators say the wounded boy came out of the burning house and described what had happened.
“The first words that came out of this brave boy’s mouth: ‘My daddy killed my mommy,’” Harmon told jurors.
Jurors also heard a 911 call from Barron in which she desperately sought help as Oneal yelled in the background.
“OK, Ronnie, I’m sorry,” she says on the recording. “I’m so sorry. Help me. I can’t move my arm. My arm is shot up, Ronnie. Please.”
Oneal contended that investigators fabricated evidence to implicate him and that his son was coached on what to say.
“The evidence is going to show that I love my children,” Oneal told jurors. “The evidence will not show you that my son witnessed me beat his mom to death, nor did he witness me shoot his mom. In fact, he didn’t witness much at all.”
The trial is expected to last through the end of next week. Oneal could get the death penalty if convicted.