The suspect, 23-year-old Edward O’Neal IV, had been charged in the 2016 slaying of his friend Ryan Roberts in a case that drew international attention since O’Neal claimed to be a worshipper of Satan.
Records indicate O’Neal had confessed to several people including his mother that he had stabbed Roberts to death. Family members told police and media that they knew O’Neal worshipped the devil, and his mother stated that he had killed two family pets.
Robert’s family believed the killing was part of a satanic ritual and said the teen had been “hit” in the back and stabbed multiple times while he begged for his life.
O’Neal’s father told investigators his son had mental health issues and had been hospitalized after a suicide attempt following the discovery of Roberts’ body. He was ruled not competent to stand trial and later that year a judge ordered him committed for up to 120 days.
Court records indicate O’Neal was returned to competency in January of 2020, and his trial was reset repeatedly during the first quarter of this year. In June, however, a judge reduced his original bond by half to $25,000, and in August he was released.
The judge who authorized O’Neal’s bond reduction was Mark Kent Ellis, appointed judge for the felony mental health court.
On December 5, O’Neal was arrested and charged in the shooting death of Derrick Mike, reportedly his cousin’s boyfriend.
After being shot multiple times on November 28, Mike was able to describe the suspect to police before his death the following day. Police also say O’Neal confessed the shooting to his mother.
Christina Roberts, the mother of the teen allegedly murdered by O’Neal in 2016, stated on social media that she told the district attorney that the suspect should not be released because “he will murder again.”
“Now look what happened, another family is grieving cuz [sic] this animal was out on the streets and I’m mad as hell cuz I’m still today waiting on a trial date to get justice for my son,” Roberts wrote.
A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said the prosecutor had asked the judge not to lower O’Neal’s bond last summer.
Andy Kahan, Victim’s Advocate for Crime Stoppers Houston, has been tracking victims murdered by suspects out on either multiple felony bonds, bond forfeiture, personal recognizance (PR) bonds, or failure to revoke bond since 2018. Kahan lists Derrick Mike as the 70th victim and told The Texan he was shocked by the bond given O’Neal this year.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve never seen a bond that low given for a murder charge,” said Kahan.
Kahan also pointed out that Mike is the second victim he has identified who has been killed by a suspect released with alleged mental health issues. Shortly after being released from custody at a psychiatric hospital, suspect Randy Lewis allegedly stabbed to death 80-year-old Rosalie Cook before being shot by police. Lewis had been arrested more than 70 times and had been out on two felony PR bonds at the time.
Last month police arrested and charged 24-year-old Robert Soliz for the November 9 murder of Houston Police Sergeant Sean Rios. Soliz had a criminal history dating back to 2014 that included both misdemeanor and felony convictions, but had been released on a $100 bond.
Kahan has addressed the Harris County Commissioners Court on the need to consider victims in studies on the impact of bond reform, although Democrats on the court have declined to work directly with Crime Stoppers as “an interested party.” The county did approve a measure to make data available to researchers and members of the public “for the purpose of conducting research or producing publicly available reports.”
O’Neal is currently being held without bond in the Harris County Jail System. A preliminary court appearance scheduled for Monday was reset for December 15, during which the suspect’s competency restoration will also be considered.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.