Ronnie Oneal, 29 murdered Kenyatta Barron, 33, and her 9-year-old daughter, Ron’Niveya Oneal, before he set fire to their home. The couple’s 8-year-old son, Ronnie Oneal IV, was also stabbed by his father but survived. He named his father as their attacker.
The 9-1-1 Calls
On March 18, 2018, the Hillsborough County Florida Sheriff’s Department received a 9-1-1 telephone call at 11:43 p.m. An unknown woman was recorded on the emergency line as saying “I’m so sorry, Ronnie” before screaming loudly as the call disconnected. While she spoke, a man’s voice could be heard in the background stating “Allah Akbar ”, which translated from Arabic means “God is the greatest”. Operators received a second 9-1-1 call eight minutes later, at approximately 11:51 p.m., from a man stating that he had been attacked by what he described as “white demons”. He further explained that Kenyatta “Ke-Ke” Barron had tried to kill him, so he killed her in self-defense. He then gave the emergency dispatcher the physical address as 13248 Pike Lake Drive, Riverside, Florida, before disconnecting the call.
Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the residence at approximately 11:49 p.m. They discovered a female laying in the driveway of a neighboring house with signs of extensive physical assault and an apparent gunshot wound. They noted a heavily damaged shotgun laying on the ground near the victim. Deputies administered first-aid until EMS crews arrived immediately after. Officers noticed what appeared to be a fire inside the residence and, as they entered through the front door of the home, the garage door opened. A man, later determined to be Ronnie Oneal III, exited the garage and walked towards officers. Oneal was instructed to get on the ground several times but would not stop or comply. Officers deployed tasers to Oneal to halt his advancement and placed him in a police vehicle until they could determine what was happening at the scene.
Once sheriff’s deputies had addressed Oneal, the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue made entry into the residence. During the maneuver, a young boy exited the home. He was determined to be Ronnie Oneal IV, the couple’s 9-year-old son. Ronnie IV was suffering from multiple stab wounds and burns. He told personnel, “My father shot my mother”. Medics expedited the boy to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery.
Emergency personnel extinguished the fire. In the mother’s bedroom, they discovered the body of the couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Ron’Niveya. She appeared to have been stabbed, burned, and had, what appeared to be, a gunshot wound to her mouth.
When detectives looked beyond the home’s small fire damaged area, they could clearly see a blood trail in nearly every room of the house. They discovered a small gas can in one bedroom. In the garage, the police found a large broken knife. The handle and blade had separated and were laying near each other on the garage floor.
Investigators learned Ron’Niveya had been born with cerebral palsy, was autistic, and non-verbal. Ron’Niveya had been making advancements in her walking ability and not relying on her wheelchair as much as she had in the past. It was reported that she was a beautiful and caring young girl with a bright and positive spirit. Investigators further learned that Barron and Oneal III were ex-partners. Oneal III had been shot a month earlier and had nowhere to recover. Barron had allowed him to stay at her house through his healing process.
The Medical Examiner’s Findings
Dr. Lily of the Child Protection Team that had been assigned to Ronnie Oneal IV offered insight into the wounds that he had sustained. She stated that the young boy had suffered several stab wounds to his torso, neck, left arm and lower right face. One wound had punctured his lung and a large incision had caused his intestines to protrude. He also suffered burns on 20% of his body.
The medical examiner determined that Kenyatta Barron suffered one gunshot wound to the right shoulder, multiple lacerations, and blunt force trauma to her neck and head. Her cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.
The autopsy of Ron’Niveya determined she had suffered from a gunshot wound to the neck, which “essentially” decapitated her. In addition, she suffered multiple blows and stab wounds to her chin, lower face, neck, left shoulder, and the sole of her right foot.
The Arrest of Ronnie Oneal III
Ronnie Oneal III was arrested on seven criminal counts; two counts of murder in the first degree (with premeditation and firearm-capital felony), one count attempted murder in the first degree (with premeditation and firearm-life felony), one count arson in the first degree-first degree felony, two counts of aggravated child abuse (aggravated battery-deadly weapon-first degree felony), one count resisting officer without violence-first degree misdemeanor.
Ronnie Oneal III represented himself during the trial despite several suggestions from Judge Michelle Sisco to obtain counsel. Oneal’s dramatic representation was loud enough that he was cautioned by the judge to keep his tone professional during the trial.
Ronnie Oneal IV testified against his father in court via remote circuit video, recounting the events surrounding the deaths of his mother, sister, and his own near death experience. Because his father, Oneal III, was representing himself, the young boy had to endure cross examination from his attacker. Young Ronnie testified he witnessed his father and mother arguing about religion. His father wanted his mother to convert to the Muslim faith, but she repeatedly refused to do so. Oneal III was holding a shotgun and fired at Barron, striking her in the shoulder. She ran to Ron’Niveya bedroom to hide in the closet. Young Ronnie entered the bedroom, as did his father. The physical altercation between the parents continued until Barron escaped the bedroom.
Oneal III followed her outside, catching up with her in the neighbor’s driveway. He shot her once with the shotgun, striking her in the arm. He delivered several blunt force blows with the barrel of the shotgun before leaving her in the neighbor’s driveway. Oneal III went into the garage to pick up a hatchet. He made his way into Ron’Niveya’s bedroom. The father grabbed Ron’Niveya from her bed and dragged her to her mother’s bedroom. Oneal IV watched his father strike the girl in the back of the head, her back and her neck/face area with the hatchet, then light a tissue on fire to burn her body. The father then grabbed his son and held him down to the floor with a foot to his back, while trying to light the young boy on fire. Oneal IV got away from his father and make his way into the kitchen. His father followed, retrieved a kitchen knife and repeatedly stabbed the young boy in the neck and abdomen to the point his intestines were visible. The boy stated that he heard noises and saw flashing lights in front of the house, so he walked out of the front door where he was met by emergency personnel.
The court also heard testimony from several neighbors who, to various extents, witnessed what had happened to Barron outside. They could describe the violent attack on Barron by Oneal III. Further testimony was offered by emergency personnel who treated all the victims.
The Sentencing of Ronnie Oneal III
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Michelle Sisco stated (in part),
Ronnie Oneal III received three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Two life sentences were for the two capital murder charges of Kenyatta Barron and Ron’Niveya Oneal. One life sentence was for the attempted murder of Ronnie Oneal IV. Judge Sisco further sentenced Oneal III to 30 years for the first-degree arson charge and 30 years for the two aggravated child abuse charges.
The court explained he did not receive the death sentence because, according to Florida law, a jury must be unanimous in the decision. In the Oneal III case, only one jury member decided against the death penalty.
Ronnie Oneal IV made a full recovery and was released from the hospital to stay with an extended family. When it was apparent that the arrangement was not working out, child services reached out to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Officer Detective Mike Blair, who had been visiting Ronnie in the hospital. A special bond had formed between Ronnie and with the Blair family during his recovery. They began fostering. The Blair family officially adopted the young boy.