Tampa killings: Parents of accused man encounter contempt hearing

(CNN) The father and mother of a man accused of killing four people in Tampa, Florida, are thinking about leaving town after getting death threats, among their attorneys said Thursday.

Attorney Ralph Fernandez spoke throughout a hearing in which a judge ordered Howell and Rosita Donaldson to appear in courtroom on January 5 to “show cause” on why they must not be held found in civil contempt for refusing to solution investigators’ questions about the case.

Their son, Howell “Trai” Donaldson III, 24, was arrested the other day and accused of killing four people, seemingly at random, in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in October and November.

Anthony Naiboa, Monica Hoffa, Benjamin Mitchell and Ronald Felton were shot and killed in separate incidents as they walked alone at night.

The killings shocked the city and resulted in fears of a serial killer as police swarmed the area in search of clues to identify a suspect.

The Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Business office, in court motions, accused the parents of indirect criminal contempt for refusing to answer questions after being served with a subpoena. Investigators tried to problem the parents about their son’s background and mind-set.

“The state’s position will there be is no privilege produced from either Constitution or perhaps statute which allows them in order to avoid answering inquiries and that their willful failing to answer inquiries is a contemptuous functions of the authority of this courtroom,” prosecutor Jay Pruner told the courtroom Thursday.

Judge Margaret Taylor, who questioned whether the state’s goal was to punish the father and mother or even to get them to adhere to subpoenas, ruled that the couple must “show reason” that they must not be held found in civil contempt.

Rosita Donaldson and Howell Donaldson Jr., spoke after their boy was arrested and accused of killing four people in Tampa, Florida.

‘Family values on trial’

Fernandez, who represents the suspect’s mom, said the Donaldsons have already been devastated because the arrest of their boy the other day. They have not been able to sleep or “think cogently and clearly.”

He said the couple are like hostages within their own home after receiving loss of life threats. They are thinking about moving and fear for the safeness of a younger kid. Fernandez stated one caller to his workplace left a note threatening to hang both the lawyer and the suspect from a tree outside his window.

The couple, during their meeting with investigators, knew “they were not going to answer questions that would result in the execution of their son,” Fernandez told the judge.

“It’s implicit … that they want something from them which will perfect the case in order that, perhaps, their boy is executed and it’s among these concepts that’s very difficult for just about any parent,” Fernandez stated of the state.

Following the hearing, Fernandez told reporters that the contempt case amounted to putting “family values on trial.”

“I don’t feel that there is a greater treasure than the family,” he said.

“I want each of you who have children to tell me … what would you carry out if police found tell you that you had to testify against your son or daughter?”

Donaldson was taken into custody the other day , 51 days following the first killing, when a co-worker at McDonald’s tipped off police about his handgun. Law enforcement detained Donaldson and decided that his firearm was found in all four killings, in line with the criminal affidavit. Cellphone area data also linked him to areas nearby the killings if they occurred, the affidavit stated.

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

‘We believe in him’

Speaking at a information conference alongside attorneys the other day, Donaldson’s parents said they had not seen their boy since his arrest but wanted to offer him their take pleasure in and support.

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

“We believe in him, and we’re 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 group during the 2011-12 time of year, relating to Brian Browne, executive director of university relations.

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

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