Investigation Discovery’s ‘Forbidden: Dying for Love: Love Is War’ chronicles the tragic death of 39-year-old Kimberly O’Neal near Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California in February 2004. The perpetrator took advantage of their military position and fled to Kuwait after committing the heinous crime. However, the investigators caught the murderer within weeks of the homicide. Now, if you’re interested in learning more about the case, here’s what we know.
How Did Kimberly O’Neal Die?
Kimberly “Kim” O’Neal was raised in Detroit with her sister, June Gordon. Her sibling recounted, “We had a good childhood. It’s like when we got older, we just got very close, real close. We talked every day.” Kim was married to a Marine, Gunnery Sergeant Greg O’Neal, and they had a young daughter. Rounding out their family household was her younger brother, Raymond Parks. He recalled, “My mom died when I was four. When I moved to California, Kim pretty much became my mom. I loved her very much.”
Kim worked at the Department of Homeland Security as an Immigration Examiner and had been living on military bases for more than 15 years. The family lived on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton on the Southern California coast in San Diego County in September 2002. Raymond described Kim as a firecracker, while Greg was calmer and more relaxed than his spouse. The brother said, “He was yin to her yang.” According to the show, Kim made extra money by purchasing and selling cars at a higher price.
Hence it came as a shock when Marine officials found 39-year-old Kim’s body in the Camp Horno area of Camp Pendleton on February 29, 2004. She had been shot multiple times, with the San Diego County Deputy Medical Examiner, Dr. Steven Campman, noting at least 11 entry wounds from .45 caliber bullets. According to Kim’s autopsy report, the perpetrator had shot her once in the top of the head, leaving a hollow-point bullet lodged deep in her brain. This fatal gunshot wound was deemed to be the official cause of death.
Who Killed Kimberly O’Neal?
According to the episode, Kim met Gunnery Sergeant Archie Leroy O’Neil Jr. in September 2002 while selling one of her cars. He was interested in purchasing the vehicle and came with his wife, Monique, to check it out. Kim and Greg found they had much in common with the other couple, along with their last names — just one vowel separating the two surnames. They quickly hit off and became close friends within months as they hung out at house parties or barbeque sessions in the backyards.
On the show, Raymond said he had noticed a severe strain on Greg and Kim’s marriage as the cracks often seemed to come out in the open. The latter became friends with Archie as his firing range was close to her office building, and the two went out on frequent lunches. During one of these social meets, the episode showed how Kim confessed about her failing marriage to him, alleging her husband was having affairs behind her back. She and Archie also confronted their feelings for each other.
However, Archie knew the stringent military rule about serving soldiers carrying out extramarital affairs and checked himself. But the temptation was too strong to fight off, and the two soon started exchanging flirtatious emails and having long phone conversations unknown to their spouses. When Greg and Archie’s battalions were deployed to Iraq, Kim and Monique became close. Still, she continued sending emails to Archie, each becoming more desperate than the last until the men returned home a few months later.
According to the episode, Archie began suffering from psychological and behavioral problems, with Monique confiding about it to Greg. A suspicious Kim allegedly lost her cool when she learned about her erstwhile husband speaking with Monique in confidence and even made a scene, alleging they were carrying out an affair. Around late 2003, she herself began having a physical relationship with Archie, with the two allegedly meeting in her gold BMW outside the barracks.
The episode showed how Kim became obsessed with Archie and wanted him to divorce his wife and marry him. However, he did not want to divorce Monique, which enraged his lover all the more. Kim allegedly even attempted to run her over with her car, though no charges were filed due to a lack of evidence. Amidst this chaotic state of personal relationships, the couples learned that the men would be deployed to Iraq again in early 2004.
On the night of February 29, 2004, Archie and Kim met for the last time, though the latter did not know the fate awaiting her. After making out in the car, they drove to Deer Park, a picnic area about a mile away on the sprawling San Diego County base. According to court testimonies, Kim allegedly threatened to physically hurt Monique and their son after Archie left for his Iraq deployment. At this point, he claimed he had lost control, pulled out his H&K model .45-caliber pistol, and began shooting at her.
After ensuring Kim was dead, Archie hitchhiked to the base and asked Marine Cpl. Nathan Johnson to keep the gun for a few hours. According to the former corporal and his fiance’s testimony later, they noticed him sweaty and stressed out when he arrived at their barracks. Hours later, Archie collected the weapon as he shipped out with Camp Pendleton’s 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, for a Kuwait stopover en route to Iraq. The murder weapon would never be found again, though his plot would be out in the open weeks later.
Where is Archie O’Neil Now?
According to reports, Archie became a suspect in the murder after the investigators learned about the affair. He was detained in Kuwait in the first week of March 2004. He signed a statement admitting that he had killed Kim two weeks earlier on March 12. Military sources stated Archie was held in a shipping container at the Camp Arifjan confinement facility near Kuwait City. He faced court-martial proceedings at Camp Pendleton in May 2005 after being charged with murder, adultery, and weapons violations.
Archie’s defense counsel had a court-appointed forensic psychiatrist testify that their client had post-traumatic stress disorder. The defense lawyers hoped they could secure a verdict of involuntary manslaughter by portraying him as a hypervigilant veteran who responded impulsively when he thought Kim threatened his family.
However, he was found guilty of premeditated murder, adultery, and unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon. But the judge declared it a mistrial after the jury could not decide on a sentence. A second trial was held in May 2006, and this time the jury convicted Archie of all charges and sent him to life in prison without the chance of parole. According to federal prison records, the 52-year-old is serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana.
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