A bench trial for 26-year-old Charles O’Neal was held December 1 before Adair County Judge Russell Steele at the Randolph County Justice Center in Huntsville. A bench trial is held before a judge without a jury. Judge Steele convicted O’Neal of first degree murder, first degree assault, and two counts of armed criminal action. O’Neal has until Friday to file a motion for a new trial, which is 15 days from the date of the verdict. During a Tuesday afternoon court appearance, the Judge says he intends to sentence O’Neal to life without parole, plus 15 years. Judge Steele will formally sentence O’Neal on Monday.
Prosecutors say O’Neal killed 37-year-old Dawn Kelly near Glasgow in February 2007. They say O’Neal shot Kelly with a rifle after she refused to tell him the whereabouts of her daughter, whom he had dated.
O’Neal pleaded guilty in 2008 to second degree murder, armed criminal action and first degree assault. In 2010, a judge upheld O’Neal’s motion, which claimed his attorneys gave him faulty advice leading up to his guilty plea. Prosecutors then upgraded the charges against O’Neal.
Brian Hauswirth of affiliate KWIX contributed to this report.