FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2018
COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that Matthew Oneal, Sr., 26, of Picayune, Miss., was sentenced to 18 years in prison Wednesday (June 20) for vehicular homicide and third degree feticide in the deaths of his girlfriend and their unborn child in a one-vehicle crash on Interstate 59 in Pearl River three years ago.
District Judge Richard A. Swartz, Jr., sentenced Oneal to 18 years on the vehicular homicide charge and five years on the feticide charge, but the sentences are to be served at the same time. Just prior to imposing the sentence, Swartz said this was a “tragic situation” and that any lesser sentence would deprecate the serious nature of the offenses.
The 19-year-old victim was eight months pregnant when she was killed in the crash. She and the couple’s two-year-old son were in an SUV, being operated by Oneal on the night of February 29, 2015. Oneal crossed the center line and struck a tree on the opposite side of the road and ended up in a ditch. The victim was killed instantly. The 2-year-old was secured in a car seat and did not suffer any serious injuries.
Oneal attempted to flee after the accident, leaving his family at the scene. He was apprehended by good Samaritans on the scene. His blood tested positive for synthetic cannabinoids.
The victim’s family attended the sentencing hearing, and her grandmother gave a victim impact statement to the court prior to sentencing. Her grandmother said that although the victim’s life ended that night “on the side of the road in a wet ditch,” for her family, especially her surviving child, this tragedy continues. “We have to live with what happened that night for the rest of our lives,” she said.
The defendant also gave a statement, apologizing for his actions. He said he misses the victim every day.
Oneal pleaded guilty March 5 before Swartz, who ordered a pre-sentencing investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Becky Jo Hollen, who was assisted by Assistant District Attorneys Luke Lancaster and Holly McGinness.