Parents of Tampa killing spree suspect won't answer questions

Sergio Conner
December 7, 2017

A judge ordered Howell Jr. and Rosita Donaldson back to court on January 5 to explain why they are not cooperating with investigators, and ruled that they could be held in civil contempt if they don't provide a sufficient reason for their silence.

The younger Donaldson faces four counts of first-degree murder in the apparently random shooting spree.

They hugged and embraced just before they met with Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren in downtown Tampa to talk about the suspected Seminole Heights killer, Howell Donaldson III, and whether the state should seek the death penalty.

"They elected not to discuss any matters that they were asked about because they are not going to be witnesses against their son", said Donaldson's parents' attorney, Ralph Fernandez. That is the day their son was arrested for the four murders that occurred within 51 days in Seminole Heights. He was detained after a co-worker told police that Donaldson handed her a bag with a gun inside and told her to watch it for him. We will not testify against their son.

"They haven't slept. They can't function. They are considering leaving town".

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It is important to note nothing the parents say in an investigative subpoena can be used against the parents themselves.

"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.

"Mr. Donaldsons refusal to testify. despite having received a court- authorized subpoena, constitutes indirect criminal contempt of this Honorable Court", Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner wrote in a motion filed Wednesday in a motion that names the father.

He went on to defend the Donaldsons' choice to not speak to authorities, saying they felt uncomfortable about answering questions that could indirectly lead to the possible execution of their son.

"Anybody that knows that's not Trai knows he doesn't have the personality of that character", the mother told NBC affiliate WFLA last week.

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