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From a hospital bed, boy recounted Riverview family slayings

The house where Ronnie Oneal is accused of killing two people and wounding his son is seen in this undated handout photo from the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office. Photo courtesy of Hillsborough State Attorney's Office
The house where Ronnie Oneal is accused of killing two people and wounding his son is seen in this undated handout photo from the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office. Photo courtesy of Hillsborough State Attorney's Office
Published Nov. 21, 2018

TAMPA - The detectives wanted to know what the boy had to say. But he could barely speak.

As the 8-year-old lay in a hospital bed, tubes ran in and out of the his body. Gauze covered the burns that blanketed his legs and arms. On his belly, an open wound exposed his intestines.

In a quiet voice, he said he wanted to sleep. They'd let him, but the detectives had questions.

"Do you know who did this to you?" they asked.

"Dad," the boy said.

"Do you know what he did to you?"

"He had a knife and he stabbed me," he said. "I'll tell you more when I wake up."

The first interview with Ronnie Oneal IV occurred four days after his father, Ronnie Oneal III, was accused of murder and other crimes in a bizarre and seemingly inexplicable attack in March 2018 that claimed the lives of the boy's mother and sister.

Kenyatta Barron, known as "Keke," 33, was shot to death. His older sister, 9-year-old Ron'Niveya Oneal, was fatally stabbed and beaten. Their Riverview home was set ablaze. Despite serious injuries, the boy staggered outside to arriving deputies and paramedics.

His words are among a trove of documents, audio and video recordings that Hillsborough prosecutors released Monday in their case against the elder Oneal. The materials offer the most detailed, albeit still incomplete, account of what transpired that horrific night.

•••

When the violence began, the boy said later, his parents were talking about God.

"My dad was saying 'allahu akbar,'" the boy said. The Arabic phrase means "God is greatest."

He mentioned his mother came into his room while he was sleeping. He mentioned something about school the next day. He mentioned his dad grabbing a shotgun he kept under the mother's bed.

He told the detectives his mother hid in a closet. His father found her there.

"He shot her," the boy said. "She ran before he could make another shot. ... I ran but I forgot to get my sister."

Ron'Niveya Oneal was in their mother's room, her brother said. His sister had autism, and could not talk.

Their father retrieved an axe from the garage and used it to attack her, the boy said.

In the chaos, the boy made his way to the kitchen. His father found him there and retrieved a cooking knife from a cabinet.

"Don't say a word," his father told him.

He said his father made him repeat the words, "God is my father."

•••

A flurry of 911 calls alerted sheriff's deputies to the carnage at 13248 Pike Lake Drive. The first came from Barron, who told a dispatcher she'd been shot and pleaded for help. In a recording of the call, a series of screams follows as the dispatcher repeatedly asks for an address. A transcript notes the elder Oneal's voice in the background.

"Make me a real man," he says, according to the transcript. "Say, 'allahu akbar!'"

A child's voice is then heard repeating "allahu akbar."

"Now get in here and kill this b----," Oneal says, according to the transcript. "Right now."

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Noise and screams are heard.

"I'm so sorry, Ronnie," Barron says amid a cacophony of pounding and yelling.

"I'm trusting you," she said. "I trust everything you do.

"Say it again," he said.

"I love you," she said. "Allahu Akbar."

A second 911 came in minutes later from Oneal. "I've been attacked by some white demons," he told the dispatcher.

•••

Barron ran from the home. She collapsed in the yard of a neighboring home.

The neighbors peered outside and saw Oneal standing near her body.

"You don't understand," he said. "She killed me."

Deputies arrived. Smoke began to waft from the home as flames consumed the interior. Investigators later found a gasoline can in one of the bedrooms.

In the driveway, deputies drew their guns on the boy's father. Another neighbor recorded a cell phone video showing Oneal striding toward the street, ignoring commands to lie on the ground. He endured a Taser shock and was arrested.

"Keke is the devil," Oneal said as he sat in the back of a patrol car. "The kids are the devil's kids."

But later, in a sheriff's interrogation room, he appeared calm and lucid, according to a sheriff's report, giving coherent responses to questions about his background and his family. When detectives read him his rights, he said he wanted a lawyer.

•••

In the months since his arrest, a judge ordered three doctors to assess whether Ronnie Oneal III was mentally capable of facing trial. Two said he was not. Last month, he was declared incompetent and sent to a state hospital for treatment. At some point, he will return to face trial.

If he is found guilty, prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty.

Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.