Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

January contempt hearing set for parents of suspect in Seminole Heights killings

Donaldson Seminole Heights quadruple murder suspect Howell Donaldson was supposed to appear in court Tuesday
Melinda Barton | 08 December, 2017, 00:58

Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner in arguing before the judge Thursday, Dec. 7, said parents Howell Jr. and Rosita Donaldson responded to the state's subpoena for information but refused not to answer questions.

Warren said he met with the victim's families Wednesday for two hours to discuss the prosecution and what comes next.

The Tampa Bay Times reports investigators wanted to question the Donaldsons on Tuesday about their son's background, developmental history, gun possession and state of mind.

According to documents obtained by ABC Action News, the jury has charged Donaldson with four counts of premeditated, first-degree murder for the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton.

In an earlier interview with 10News, he said: "If you are a parent asked to testify against your child, what would you do?" If they still refuse, she decided, they'd face civil contempt of court, rather than criminal - which means no jail time for not speaking.

Hillsborough County Judge Margaret Taylor set a January 5 hearing for Howell Donaldson Jr. and Rosita Donaldson.

He said the couple are like hostages in their own home after receiving death threats. Fernandez said one caller to his office left a message threatening to hang both the lawyer and the suspect from a tree outside his window.

During the hearing Thursday, their attorney, Ralph Fernandez will have to explain to a judge why they should not be held in contempt.

Prior to Thursday's hearing, Fernandez told ABC News that the Donaldsons were "fully advised" on their actions and are "ready to take the outcome". "I still believe in an America that respects that great family value".

"I want each of you who have children to tell me. what would you do if police came to tell you that you had to testify against your child?" He was taken into custody last week at the McDonald's in Ybor City, where he works, after handing a gun to a co-worker, who later turned it over to police.

The coworker then notified a Tampa Police officer, leading to Donaldson's arrest. Cellphone location data also connected him to areas near the killings when they occurred, the affidavit stated. However, on Monday, December 4, Donaldson waived his bond hearing saying he will stay in jail until his trial.

Buckhorn previously told police in a press conference, "Bring [the shooter's] head to me", bluntly promising police would "hunt this son of a bitch down until [they] catch him".

"He needs to know that we love him and we support him and we need to see him", Rosita Donaldson said.

Howell Donaldson III graduated from St. John's University in NY in January 2017 and was a walk-on for the men's basketball team during the 2011-12 season, according to Brian Browne, executive director of university relations. But they refused, revealing only the names, addresses and birth dates of family members.