James O'Neil mugshot

Police: Man, 83, admits to killing wife 30 years after her murder

For decades, the suspect said his wife killed herself

On Thursday, a Florida man stood before a judge and admitted he murdered his wife 30 years ago, after decades of maintaining she killed herself.

WPTV reports that James O’Neil, 83, was initially ruled out in the murder of his wife, Verna O’Neil, when authorities ruled her death a suicide. The suspect told police that they argued about “her excessive drinking and the fact that she had burned their dinner,” while in their home off of Osborne Circle in Lake Worth.

James O’Neil said the incident happened on July 23, 1987, at around 7:45 p.m., after his wife became upset and put a gun to her head, threatening to kill herself.  He claimed he struggled to take the gun away, but it discharged and a bullet hit the left side of her temple.

Sharon McGee, the couple’s daughter, who was around 28 at the time of the incident, always questioned the death and never felt that her mother would take her own life. On Oct. 28, 2016, McGee brought it up her father, who said that the argument with his late wife was true. Yet, he admitted that he took the gun from his wife and told her “let me show you how it is done,” before shooting her in the head.

According to the arrest affidavit, McGee waited until the following February to inform authorities, but it remains unclear why she hesitated. She told detectives that later that night, after her father admitted he killed his wife, he sent her a text message and said she would likely “sleep better” knowing the truth.

“I’m believing that you will sleep much better tonight. Love Dad.”

According to arrest report, authorities met up with James O’Neil on April 4 and told him the case had been reopened. O’Neill repeated the same story he told many years ago; he denied involvement in killing his wife.

“James stated if he barely touched the trigger on this gun, the gun would discharge. James was aware of this because he had fired that same gun several times and experienced the same sensitivity with the trigger. James could not explain why his finger was on the trigger when he took possession of the gun.”

Eight days later, however, detectives obtained a warrant for the suspect’s arrest, according to Palm Beach Post. On Thursday in court, he admitted that killed Verna O’Neil.

Court records indicate that James O’Neil was charged with murder and given a $50,000 bail amount. If he released on bond, he’ll be able to live at home with his current wife, Doris, but will wear an ankle monitoring device until his trial. The suspect married his current wife around a year after his late wife died.

[Feature Photo: Palm Beach County PD]