TAMPA — Ronnie Oneal III complained in court Thursday that news accounts make him out to be a "menace to society."
The man accused of shooting, stabbing and beating his girlfriend, 9-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, killing all but the boy, expressed concern that his good name is imperiled.
"I am demanding speedy trial," he told Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Nash. "And I am requesting a change of venue due to my due process clause of the Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendment being violated in Hillsborough County with all the media exposure and with their making me out to be a menace to society, making false allegations and accusations before there is even a thorough investigation.
"This is an attack on my good name and known character."
The Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution address the rights of people accused of crimes, providing protection from self-incrimination, along with the rights to a speedy trial and due process of law.
Sheriff’s investigators reported that Oneal killed girlfriend Kenyatta Barron and their daughter, Ron’Niveya Oneal, six weeks ago and critically injured son Ronnie Oneal IV. The family’s Riverview home was set on fire as deputies arrived just before midnight in response to a pair of 911 calls.
As he was placed in a patrol car, Oneal shouted "Allah Akbar," authorities said.
His son staggered out of the burning home. One of the boy’s lungs had collapsed, his intestines were exposed, and he had severe burns on his body, according to a search warrant affidavit. "My father shot my mother," he told deputies.
The boy has remained hospitalized since the incident.
In court, the elder Oneal hunched forward in shackles as he leaned into a microphone.
The judge cautioned the defendant that speaking in open court might be against his best interests. He spoke anyway.
"This has been the most inflammatory, prejudicial, pretrial publicity and the most malconducted, malicious administration I’ve ever seen," he said.
He said he did not believe he could get a fair trial in Hillsborough County.
Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Spradley told the judge that she had spoken with Oneal about his concerns.
Despite his words, Spradley said the defense was not asking for a speedy trial, a right often waived in serious criminal cases. She also said a change of venue would be premature.
Nash asked Oneal if he understood that his attorney was not pursuing the things he was demanding.
Oneal said he understood, but felt the public defender’s assistance was ineffective. Nevertheless, he declined other options.
"I want her to keep representing me until otherwise," he said.
During a lull in the proceedings, Oneal gazed at spectators in the courtroom gallery. One bench was packed with relatives of the slain mother and daughter and the wounded boy. They left the courtroom quietly, declining to speak with reporters. Oneal’s next court date is set for May 31.
Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.