TAMPA — Ariana Crumb, 11, wanted to be first to speak at the sentencing of the man who killed her aunt and cousin.
But when she sat down on the witness stand next to Judge Michelle Sisco, and looked out at Ronnie Oneal III, sitting calm and collected, she lost her nerve.
“Part of my heart is missing,” Crumb told the court.
Then she fell silent, answered a few questions from sympathetic attorneys, and quietly sat back down next to her family.
Oneal, 32, appeared in court for sentencing Friday, but it was largely a foregone conclusion. The jury that had found him guilty in the brutal murder of his girlfriend and their 9-year-old daughter and the attempted murder of their then-8-year-old son had already recommended a sentence of life in prison rather than the death penalty.
Sisco’s voice choked with emotion as she addressed Oneal and delivered three consecutive life sentences and an additional 60 years.
“Nineteen years I’ve been in this job,” Sisco said. “I’ve seen human beings killed by the hands of others in every way imaginable. This is the worst case I have ever seen.”
“I know I will be haunted for the rest of my life.”
Oneal shot and beat to death his girlfriend, Kenyatta Barron, 33, with a shotgun, killed their 9-year-old daughter Ron’Niveya Oneal with blows from a hatchet, and disemboweled their son Ronnie Oneal IV, 8 at the time, before pouring gasoline throughout the house and setting fire to it.
Sisco said it was all she could do to avoid bursting into tears while listening to a Hillsborough County firefighter sob through his testimony about finding the charred remains of little Ron’Niveya Oneal in the bedroom of the family’s Riverview home.
Even in the ruins of the home, crime scene photos show how the girl’s mother had worked to make her daughter’s bedroom like the home of a princess, Sisco said. She recalled testimony that the girl, who was autistic and had cerebral palsy, sat and munched Oreos and grapes as her mother read stories to her.
Barron’s mother, Carrie Lloyd, had advised her daughter not to let Oneal into her house. Friends and family wouldn’t take him in after he suffered a gunshot wound during a drive-by shooting, but Barron did in an act of kindness toward the father of her children — even though he had left her a single mother.
“I wish you would have gotten the death penalty,” Lloyd told a smirking Oneal on Friday. “Every action has a reaction, and the reaction to your actions is going to be sitting in your prison cell for the rest of your life with your thoughts.”
Daisatta Barron, the victim’s sister, said from the witness stand, “I don’t feel sorry for you. You were sent to kill, steal and destroy like the devil himself, and that’s what you are.”
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Oneal was deemed fit to stand trial during psychiatric evaluations and represented himself at trial, presenting a defense marked by loud outbursts and conspiracy theories.
He said he hadn’t planned to speak at Friday’s hearing, but felt “really, really moved” to do so after listening to testimony from Barron’s family and his own, including his estranged father and grandmother.
“At first I want to say I’m not sorry for the things I didn’t do, and I’m not sorry for the things I did do,” Oneal said, yelling at the audience as his upset family members hurried out the door.
“But I will say I’m sorry for your loss,” he said, turning towards Barron’s family. “Everybody wants to point fingers and play the blame game without knowing actual facts. Everybody wants to talk justice without giving it.”
Oneal spoke at length to family members in the courtroom, refusing to face the judge even after she ordered him to do so. He said he would have preferred the death penalty over life in prison, but was saved by “the one true God.”
He spoke of how he fixed Barron’s car when it was broken and got the oil changed. He said he took the garbage out, opened the car door for his girlfriend, and gave Barron $400 every two weeks to help care for their children.
“There is not one person in this world who loved Kenyatta Barron more than me and there is not one person in this world who loved my children more than me,” Oneal told his victim’s family.
“Do I look like I’m insane to you? And if I don’t look insane, and if I’m able to represent myself in trial, you have to ask yourself why would a man kill his own children who he loved?”
Voices shouted out from the courtroom, “Because you’re evil.”