Florida Man Charged in Wife's 1987 Killing After Confession to Daughter: Deputies

A Florida man whose wife was shot to death more than 30 years ago was arrested in her killing Thursday after the couple's daughter claimed he confessed to the crime, authorities said.

James O'Neil, 83, is charged with manslaughter with a firearm in the July 23, 1987 killing of wife Verna O'Neil in their Lake Worth home, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office officials said Friday.

Authorities said James O'Neil reported his wife had committed suicide. He said he and his wife had struggled with a firearm and it accidentally went off, hitting her in the side of her face, authorities said.

James O'Neil told investigations she had threatened to kill herself while they were arguing about her "excessive drinking" and their burnt dinner, and she had put the gun near her head, WPTV reported.

Investigators initially ruled Verna O’Neil’s cause of death as a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of death as undetermined, officials said.

But the couple's daughter, Sharon McGee, decided to confront her father in October of last year about her mother's death. McGee said her father said he took the gun away from his wife and said "let me show you how it is done" then shot her, authorities said.

James O'Neil apologized to his daughter for killing her and said it was an accident, but asked his daughter to keep the confession a secret, authorities said. McGee reported her father's confession to the sheriff's office in February and the case was reopened, officials said.

Detectives said James O'Neil told them he lied during his previous interviews because he didn't want to get in trouble. The medical examiner changed Verna O'Neil's manner of death to homicide.

O'Neil appeared in court Friday, where he told a judge he married his current wife in 1988. The judge set O'Neil's bond at $50,000, and he'll be on house arrest with an ankle monitor if he posts bond.

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