Friday, 15 December, 2017

Parents of murder suspect appear in court

Donaldson Seminole Heights quadruple murder suspect Howell Donaldson was supposed to appear in court Tuesday
Kenny Thornton | 08 December, 2017, 06:08

Ralph Fernandez, an attorney for the couple, said they haven't slept much since their son was arrested November 28 and charged with four counts of first-degree murder for the apparently random shootings that began in early October in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood.

Answers to those questions potentially could be used to determine whether Donaldson III murdered four people this fall in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood. But they stopped answering questions during a meeting with investigators.

Judge Margaret Taylor, who questioned whether the state's goal was to punish the parents or to get them to comply with subpoenas, ruled that the couple must "show cause" that they shouldn't be held in civil contempt. Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was killed October 9, and the body of 32-year-old Monica Hoffa was found October 13, half a mile from where Mitchell was killed.

"I can not fathom a worse scenario than a parent having to testify against their child in such a serious matter", attorney Ralph Fernandez told CNN on Wednesday.

A motion filed Wednesday by the office of Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren said Donaldson's father, also named Howell, refused to answer questions - under oath - posed by prosecutors a day earlier.

LIVE | The parents of Howell Donaldson III, suspected Seminole Heights killer, are facing a judge for refusing to answer questions about their son. "Mr. Donaldson's refusal to testify in the above-described proceeding, despite having received a court-authorized subpoena, constitutes indirect criminal contempt of this Honorable Court".

Police say the evidence against Donaldson is compelling.

They wanted to ask Howell Jr. and Rosita Donaldson about their 24-year-old sons background, developmental history, mode of transportation, gun possession and state of mind.

Wildfire burning near the Getty Center in Los Angeles
The Skirball Cultural Center is also closed, and the center tweeted that ticket holders for "Noah's Ark" will be issued refunds. This year, however, none has fallen in three months - making firefighters' work even more challenging.

Donaldson was taken into custody last week, 51 days after the first murder, when a coworker at McDonald's tipped off police about his handgun.

"I understand it's the parents", Hayslett said. "They have an interest in protecting their child", he said.

Warren did not say whether he would pursue the death penalty for Donaldson, if he is convicted of first-degree murder. A pretrial detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday was canceled because the case has not yet been assigned to a division.

"It is a carrot being held out to see if we can reach some kind of agreement", he said. She said the family had frequent gatherings around the holidays.

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. "Our hearts go out to the families and the loss that they have". Instead, the parents spoke emotionally about their family and the families of the victims.

"We're not only trying to build a case against the defendant, we're trying to ask the broader question of why - a question that the victims' families and the community deserves to have answered", Warren, the state attorney, said Wednesday. "I still believe in an America that respects that great family value".

Fernandez said, "They are seeking information to kill their son and nothing good can come out of this".

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