Competency evaluation delayed for Riverview man accused of killing family

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A decision on whether a Riverview father, charged in a deadly attack on his family, is competent to stand in his own trial has been postponed.

Ronnie O’ Neal is accused of killing his girlfriend and daughter, and nearly killing his 8-year-old son. His mental state has been the focus of the case for well over a year. On Wednesday morning, a Hillsborough County judge appointed three new doctors to evaluate whether O’Neal is fit to stand trial, or not.

Last fall, a trio of doctors came to the same conclusion for the court: O’Neal was not competent to stand trial. He has spent the past six months in a state mental facility, where doctors there said he no longer meets the standards to be involuntarily committed.

He is accused of shooting his long-time girlfriend Kenyatta Barron in their Riverview home in front of their children. According to detectives, he beat and stabbed their 9-year-old daughter, then slashed their 8-year-old son with a knife.

Barron managed to call 911 for help. She was wounded, but ran next door to a neighbor’s home where she collapsed and died. Back in their home, detectives said O’Neal set the house on fire. His son, Ronnie Jr., was still clinging to life.

Ronnie Jr. miraculously survived the attack, though he’d been stabbed multiple times and suffered burns on more than 20 percent of his small body. He was still able to tell detectives what he experienced. 

During a recorded interview with law enforcement officials, the detectives is heard asking, “You said your sister was bleeding a lot?”

Ronnie Jr. said, “Yeah, because my mom was in the closet and my dad went into the room with my sister. She was just on the ground. She couldn’t speak or do anything and kept just hitting her with an ax.”

“Who was he hitting with the ax?” the detective asked.

“My sister.”

O’Neal was arrested that night and has been in custody ever since. During one of his court appearances he ranted about the media making him look bad and “attacking his good name.” He also wrote a letter to the judge demanding that his son not be allowed to testify against him.

However, Ronnie Jr. will likely be a key witness for the state prosecutors.