In 1998, Dunaway's ex-wife, Nonniel Dunaway was found dead in a half-empty swimming pool. An autopsy revealed that she had a fractured skull and was unconscious when she was placed in the water by her assailant where she drowned. Prior to this event, Nonniel had won a divorce judgment which gave her more than 800 acres (3.2 km2) of property that the couple owned, $1800 a month in alimony and half of Dunaway's NFL pension. They had been divorced since 1995 and Dunaway was planning to appeal.
Dunaway was charged with her murder but a grand jury chose not to indict Dunaway of the charges. In response, his children filed a wrongful deathlawsuit, alleging that Dunaway was responsible for their mother's death. In 2002, Dunaway was found liable and ordered to pay $579,000 to his children.
Coincidentally, Dunaway had been a teammate for three seasons of star running back O.J. Simpson, who was similarly found responsible for his ex-wife's death after being acquitted of her murder in a controversial trial in 1995.