Jim Dunaway strung together an impressive football career that saw him find tremendous success at the professional level. However, the former Buffalo Bills‘ life in retirement included the suspicious death of his ex-wife. The situation moved toward Dunaway being forced to pay $500,000.
Jim Dunaway’s impressive football career
Before Jim Dunaway entered the NFL, he was a tremendous collegiate talent that anchored Ole Miss’ defensive line.
Dunaway was a unanimous All-American and a four-time All-Pro that helped lead the school to national championships twice. His collegiate success saw him earn the third overall selection in the 1963 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings.
Instead, he joined the Buffalo Bills after being selected him with the ninth overall pick in the 1963 AFL Draft. Dunaway became a key factor for the Bills as the team won a pair of AFL championships in his first three years while earning a couple of AFL All-Star selection.
He was part of their vaunted defense that, from 1964 to 1965, set the record by holding opposing teams without a rushing touchdown in 17 consecutive games. During his nine-year tenure with the Bills, he earned four AFL All-Star selections before playing his final year with the Miami Dolphins in 1972.
He ended his career on a high note with the legendary Super Bowl 7 Champion Dolphins team that remains the only undefeated team in NFL history. His collegiate career also earned him a Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame induction and the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame nomination in 1990.
Jim Dunaway’s ex-wife suspiciously found dead in swimming pool
Jim Dunaway earned tremendous respect for his football career, but he went through a dark period in his personal life.
Dunaway’s longtime wife, Nonniel Dunaway, was granted a divorce from him in 1995 that awarded her 800 acres of land, $1,800 a month in alimony, and half of his NFL pension. Despite that, the former NFL star planned to appeal the divorce.
However, things took a frightening turn three years later as Nonniel was found dead in a half-empty swimming pool by her Florida home. An autopsy of the body found that she suffered a fractured skull and “was unconscious when she was placed in the water.”
The situation quickly led to Dunaway being charged with the murder of his ex-wife. A $500,000 bond was set for him after police took him in. However, Dunaway avoided any possible jail time as a grand jury elected not to indict him.
His troubles with the legal system didn’t end there as his kids stepped into the matter.
His children win a $500,000 lawsuit against him
Jim Dunaway may have avoided severe punishment from the law, but he couldn’t get away from what came next.
Dunaway’s two children in 2002 chose to file a wrongful death civil lawsuit against him in an eight-week trial. The former NFL Star’s attorney, Gary Honea, initially voiced that it was “vendetta” from the children against their father.
“This is just a vendetta,” Honea said. “They (children) want to punish him because they’re angry about the divorce. Do you think a grand jury and the DA’s office would let someone who’s guilty go free? This is the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen…suing your daddy for more money.”
The court ruled in the children’s favor agreeing that he was responsible for their mother’s death that ordered him to pay over a half-million dollars in damages.
Nothing else came about from the situation as Dunaway passed away at age 76 on May 12, 2018.