Ronnie Oneal was born in 1989 (age 32 years; as of 2021). At the age of five, Oneal was sexually abused at the hands of his extended relatives. He never received any treatment for the traumas he suffered. He did his schooling at East Bay High School, where he was an active football player. During his childhood, he used to sing in a church choir. Also, he was involved in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, an elective military education program hosted by colleges and universities. Although he struggled in school, he managed to graduate. Thereafter, he attempted to join the U.S. Marine Corps but failed the entrance exam. Until adulthood, he was unaware of the identity of his biological father. Prior to the Family Massacre, Oneal had been arrested thrice in the past on charges of obtaining food or lodging with intent to defraud, marijuana possession, and driving without a valid license. He was last arrested in Hillsborough County in 2009. Five months before the killings, he suffered a gunshot wound during a drive-by shooting while attending a BYC event in the Robles Park area of Tampa. During the surgery following the fatal accident, he flatlined four times. Neither his friends nor his family took Oneal into their homes. Despite her mother’s advice to refrain from letting Oneal into her house, Barron decided to do an act of kindness towards the father of her children and invited Oneal to live with her. To earn a living, Oneal pursued various odd jobs. Earlier he worked in a casino and later as a truck driver
Height (approx.): 5′ 10″
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Black
Parents & Siblings
His father suffered from mental illness, and he was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. His stepfather’s name is Billy Smith, and his brother’s name is Alonso Kelley.
Relationships & Children
Although Ronnie Oneal III and Kenyatta Barron weren’t married, they had children together. His daughter, Ron’Niveya Oneal, was born prematurely and had cerebral palsy. Diagnosed with autism, she could not speak. His son, Ronnie Oneal IV, is named after him.
In 2012, Barron filed a paternity petition, a hearing in the family court to decide who is the child’s biological father. The Hillsborough judge gave a ruling that Ronnie Oneal IV was Oneal’s biological son and ordered the elder Oneal to pay monthly child support for the boy and another child. Later, it was found that Oneal was delinquent in child support payments to Barron, hence, a judge ordered him to pay $1,735.32 that was due. In 2016, while Oneal was living apart from Barron and his children, he had a son with his girlfriend Iesha Robinson.
In 2010, he joined a local social work group Build Your Community (BYC) after meeting one of the group leaders Jihad Mohammad east Tampa community center. The group members visited impoverished neighborhoods in Tampa to mentor youth, train them in boxing, and encouraging them to maintain hygiene by picking up trash. Intrigued by Islam, Oneal started taking classes on religion and self-improvement. As an enthusiastic BYC member, Oneal visited inner-city areas with the group to promote peace. Thereafter, he became a devout Muslim who followed Islam. O’Neal identified himself as a member of the organization The Nation of Islam on his Facebook account. The Nation of Islam (NOI) is a religious and political organization founded in the United States in 1930. The organization was founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad who taught an idiosyncratic form of Islam to members of the city’s black population until 1934. One of the deputies reported that Oneal began repeating, “Allah Akbar” when he was placed in the back of a deputy’s vehicle. The Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar” means “God is greatest.”
The Family Massacre
On the night of March 18, 2018, Ronnie Oneal III was arrested for murdering his girlfriend, Kenyatta Barron, and his 9-year-old daughter, Ron’Niveya Oneal, in Riverview, a community south of Tampa. Furthermore, he was accused of attempting to kill his son, Ronnie Oneal IV.
During the night of horror, Ronnie Oneal shot Barron twice with a shotgun before she fled outside to a neighbor’s yard, where Oneal viciously beat her to death. After being shot, Barron hid and made a call on a 911 from inside a closet, which was presented to the court during the trial. Then, he ran back to his own home dragged her autistic daughter into a master bedroom, and stabbed her to death with an axe. Thereafter, the brutal murderer turned to his third victim, his son. Oneal repeatedly stabbed his son with a knife, drenched him and the entire house in gasoline, and then it lit on fire.
The Trial and Sentence
Oneal chose to serve as his own defense attorney during the trial and had public defenders for the penalty phase. The call recorded with 911 was played in the courtroom in which Barron said,
I’m shot, Help me, I’m shot, help me, please.”
In the background, Oneal is heard saying,
Allahu Akbar! Get in here and kill this bitch, right now!”
Thereafter, Barron’s hysterical voice turns to screams,
Okay, Ronnie, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Help me. … I can’t move my arm. My arm is shot up, Ronnie. Please.”
The next-door neighbor James Gray testified that he looked out his front door and saw the elder Oneal beating Barron’s battered body on the entryway. Oneal went on to claim that the 911 calls from his girlfriend were fake. During his trial, Ronnie Oneal III suggested that it was his girlfriend who attacked his children. Therefore, he had to kill her in self-defense. During the penalty phase of Oneal’s double-murder trial, Oneal’s sexual abuse as a young boy was revealed in the court for jurors to decide whether to sentence Oneal to death or give him life imprisonment. The statement was testified by Oneal’s brother Alonso Kelley, who was also sexually abused by the family members as a child. Alonso said,
He would always act like it didn’t bother him, But I could tell that it bothered him.”
Apart from abuse, family mental health issues, Oneal’s previous injury in a shooting was also highlighted in the court. A forensic psychologist named Scot Machlus testified that according to him, as a result of the shooting and childhood abuse, Oneal developed post-traumatic stress disorder. Oneal’s family revealed that Oneal had a delusional disorder and used to pretend to talk to God during his childhood. On June 21, 2021, the panel declared that Oneal was guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, and one count each of attempted murder, arson, and resisting arrest. The Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco sentenced Ronnie Oneal III to three life terms plus 60 years in prison to run consecutively for the gruesome crime. He delivered his final remarks to the judge and the victim’s family in a volatile and unapologetic tone.
13246 Pike Lake Drive in Gibsonton, Florida.
- Ronnie Oneal IV was later adopted by Mike Blair, one of the homicide detectives who assisted in the case. Jr. Ronnie was a football fan. Hence, Blair contacted the American football team Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the hope that the team might be able to donate a jersey and other sports equipment to Ronnie. Thereafter, Blair visited Ronnie with the football team’s executive staff at Tampa General Hospital.
- Amid his trial, he flashed handwritten notes towards news cameras and courtroom spectators. One of them read, “Love U” and another read, “Only no sin cast first stone.”
- He was passionate about hip-hop music and set up a makeshift recording studio in the garage.