A little boy is getting a second chance after enduring unimaginable heartbreak — all thanks to the detective who responded to the call on the night his world changed forever.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) Detective Mike Blair and his wife Danyel said they knew they had to take in Ronnie Oneal IV and give him a new life after his traumatic experience in 2018, according to a video from HCSO.
"He knows he has a story that has been written for him," Blair, a father of five, said in the video. "But he also knows he doesn't want to be defined by that story."
According to the sheriff's department, Ronnie was just 8 years old when his mother and 9-year-old sister were brutally murdered by his dad, Ronnie Oneal III.
That evening, HCSO Detective Mike Blair responded to the gruesome scene, where he discovered that little Ronnie had also been attacked, and was stabbed and lit on fire by his father. (Ronnie Oneal III was sentenced to three life terms plus 60 years in prison for the murders, per NBC affiliate WFLA.)
"We were told there was a child being medevacked to Tampa General, but he was not expected to live," Blair recalled in the video.
hcso sheriff Ronnie Oneal IV
During Ronnie's stay in the hospital, Blair would often visit, bringing the boy gifts from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with whom he has a connection, according to WFLA.
But it was not until one special evening that Blair realized just how impactful his visits were for Ronnie.
"He kind of held on to my hand as I left, and he said, 'Could you watch a movie with me?' and I said, 'No I can't, I've gotta get back to work,'" Blair recalled in the video. "And I said, 'How 'bout I come back and watch a movie with you tonight?'"
"I called my wife and we were planning to go on a date night that night and I said, 'Hey, instead of doing date night, do you mind if we watch a movie with this kid?'" Blair continued.
Danyel agreed — and it wasn't long before the couple knew they had to do more for Ronnie.
"I had already known that I would want to take Ronnie home with us, starting that night," Danyel recalled in the sheriff's department video.
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At the time, Ronnie was living with family members who had some problems in their home, according to WFLA. A Guardian Ad Litem was supervising his care and later approached the Blairs about taking him in, the outlet reported.
"When I got the phone call, I was driving, and I was driving by our church and the guardian was asking, 'Do you know of somebody who can help us out,'" Blair told the outlet.
Added Danyel: "I had already started praying that God would soften Michael's heart and say, 'Okay, yes, we have a place and Ronnie belongs home with us.'"
Even the couple's five kids were on board, as Blair recalled: "My kids had come to me... and said to me, 'Dad, you just need to go with Mom on this; we need to start fostering.'"
The Blairs made it happen in 2019. After a five-month process, they took Ronnie in as their own, officially becoming a family of eight, according to the sheriff's department video.
"The easiest way to surmise the whole, this is — it's been a God thing for us," Blair said, per WFLA.
hcso sheriff The Blair family
For Ronnie, life is certainly different — but it's a life he couldn't be more grateful for.
"I go to a different church, I have a different brother and sister, different mom and dad, different house, but it's pretty cool to be with them," he said in the video. "They are really nice people. They are the best moms and dads, and they really take care of me. There is no one else better than them."
While he continues to heal, Ronnie is keeping alive the memory of his mother, Kenyatta Barron, and his sister, Ron'Niveya, according to WFLA.
"She was just a good mom. We did like a lot of things together. She was nice, pushed me on the swing, made me some good wings," Ronnie said of his mom in the video.
"My sister, she couldn't talk but she could still move her head, so I learned sign language," he added. "She was very nice."
Ronnie said he enjoys science and playing with his brother and someday hopes to become an actor.
On days where he feels stressed or upset, Ronnie repeats a mantra that the Blairs established to show their unwavering love and support.
"It goes, 'I am safe, I am loved and I am part of this family,'" Blair said in the video.