Accused Tampa killer indicted, his parents face contempt hearing

Parents of Seminole Heights murder suspect refuse to talk to investigators, judge to rule

Accused murderer's parents face contempt charges

Answers to those questions potentially could be used to determine whether Donaldson III murdered four people this fall in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood.

Despite wishes to only speak of love for their son, the parents of accused Seminole Heights killer Howell Donaldson III are ordered to explain why they shouldn't be held in civil contempt. The four were shot to death in October and November in southeast Seminole Heights.

Meanwhile, the victims' families are also expected in court soon.

Each of them was questioned separately, in different rooms.

A hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday before County Judge Margaret Taylor.

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According to their attorney, Ralph Fernandez, they are doing all they can to protect him, including refusing to answer personal and detailed questions about his mental health. Their refusal to answer questions was simply meant to avoid further emotional pain. "Prosecutors in general, they tend to avoid having family members testify for or against family members in situations like this".

"They elected not to discuss any matters that they were asked about because they are not going to be witnesses against their son", said Fernandez. He told the Judge they can't sleep and they have even thought of leaving town.

He said the couple are like hostages in their own home after receiving death threats. "They have an interest in protecting their child", he said. 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.

If they continue to refuse to cooperate, Howell, Jr. and Rosita Donaldson could end up in jail on contempt of court charges.

The families of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton earlier met with the state attorney to talk about whether the state should seek the death penalty; Naiboa's father said that's something they want.

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Warren said he understands Donaldson's parents might be willing to go to jail to avoid providing testimony, but "I don't think it's going to come to that and we're not at that point yet".

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

The Donaldsons were subpoenaed by prosecutors to, according to court documents, give information about their son's "developmental history, mode of transportation, gun possession and ownership, and state of mind".

On Tuesday after the parents were questioned, he shared with WFLA the reaction of the mother and father when they were asked to provide details about their son.

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.

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