Tampa killings suspect: Father and mother won’t cooperate with investigators

(CNN) The father of the person accused of killing four persons in a Tampa, Florida, neighborhood faces likely contempt charges when he appears before a judge Thursday to clarify why he isn’t cooperating with investigators, according to his attorney.

“I cannot fathom a worse scenario when compared to a parent needing to testify against the youngster in such a serious matter,” legal professional Ralph Fernandez told CNN Wednesday.

“It moves against everything we stand for as a persons in this region — dividing the home.”

Howell “Trai” Donaldson III, 24, was arrested last week and accused of killing four people, seemingly randomly, in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa in October and November.

Anthony Naiboa, Monica Hoffa, Benjamin Mitchell and Ronald Felton were all shot and killed on separate incidents because they walked alone during the night in the neighborhood.

The killings terrified residents and resulted in fears of a serial killer as police swarmed the area hoping for any clues to identify a suspect and prevent the attacks.

A motion filed Wednesday by the office of Hillsborough County Condition Lawyer Andrew Warren said Donaldson’s father, also named Howell, refused to answer queries — under oath — posed by prosecutors a day earlier.

‘Indirect criminal contempt’

“Mr. Donaldson refused to reply any question linked to the investigation of the involvement of his boy, Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, in the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton, and refused to reply any questions linked to his son’s backdrop, developmental history, method of transport, gun possession and ownership, and mind-set,” the motion showing cause stated.

“In refusing to reply, Mr. Donaldson didn’t invoke any statutory privilege or any privilege produced from the Florida or USA Constitution. Mr. Donaldson’s refusal to testify in the above-described proceeding, despite having received a courtroom- authorized subpoena, constitutes indirect criminal contempt of this Honorable Court.”

Fernandez questioned why prosecutors would take such an “extraordinary step” given the data they claim to have against the younger Donaldson.

Fernandez told CNN affiliate marketer WFLA that whenever prosecutors asked about Donaldson’s life on Tuesday, one parent responded: “Testify against our boy? You mean to testify against our baby?”

The legal professional told the station the parents, who he referred to as the “perfect family,” were interviewed separately and declined to answer questions about their son’s mental health, his mind-set before the killings and whether he was under psychiatric care.

“Each time the response that was elicited was, ‘I’m not going to answer that dilemma,'” Fernandez said.

The couple have said they are devastated and in disbelief that their son could did such a thing.

“Everybody is in disbelief,” Rosita Donaldson, the suspect’s mother, told CNN affiliate marketer WFTS about Friday . “Anybody that has learned Trai knows that’s not Trai. He doesn’t have the personality of that character.”

Donaldson was first taken into custody last week , 51 days following the first murder, when a coworker in McDonald’s tipped off police about his handgun. Police detained Donaldson and motivated that his specific firearm was used in all of the killings, according to the criminal affidavit. Cell phone location data likewise connected him to areas near to the killings if they occurred, the affidavit explained.

He faces four charges of murder and may receive the death penalty if convicted. Donaldson waived a formal hearing on his pretrial detention, so he’ll be held without bond for the charges, according to a courtroom order released Monday.

‘Why? Why?’

Rosita Donaldson and Howell Donaldson, Jr., spoke after their boy was arrested and accused of carrying out four murders in Tampa, Florida.

Speaking at a reports conference alongside attorneys last week, Donaldson’s parents said they had not seen their boy since his arrest but wanted to offer him their love and support.

“He needs to understand that we love him and we support him and we need to find him,” Rosita Donaldson explained.

“We believe in him, and we’re right here for him,” she added.

Howell Donaldson III graduated from St. John’s University in New York in January 2017 and was a walk-on for the men’s basketball team during the 2011-12 time, relating to Brian Browne, executive director of University Relations.

Attorneys for the spouse and children declined to touch upon whether they had seen the surveillance video recording of the suspect that police released weeks hence. Instead, the father and mother spoke emotionally about their spouse and children and the families of the victims.

“We only want to say that people do love our boy, we support our boy, and we pray durability for the members of the family and we only ask that they perform the same for all of us and pray durability for us because we all will be devastated,” Rosita Donaldson explained.

She said that they had prayed for the victims’ families, and hoped those families would return the effort.

“(We experienced) devastation for the spouse and children, and that was when it first began. I prayed for those families when it first started,” Rosita Donaldson explained. “And then if they arrested my boy, devastation because I really like my boy, and it was disbelief that was happening to your family, and we dilemma why? Why?”

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