Judge warns accused serial killer's parents: Cooperate or explain why not

Judge warns accused serial killer's parents: Cooperate or explain why not

Howell Donaldson Jr. and Rosita Donaldson are refusing to answer investigators' questions about their son, Howell Donaldson III, who is accused of murdering four people.

State Attorney Andrew Warren held a press conference Wednesday answering questions after it was reported that the parents of the suspected Seminole heights killer refused to answer questions about their son despite a court subpoena.

Seminole Heights residents and police had been on edge since October 9, when 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell was shot to death.

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

Their son was arrested November 28 on four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton.

The idea of testifying against their son was not something they were in a position to consider, he said, especially with the possibility that he could face the death penalty.

Fernandez questioned why prosecutors would take such an "extraordinary step", given the evidence they claim to have against the younger Donaldson.

The state wants answers to questions like if 24-year-old Donaldson suffered from mental health issues or if he was under psychiatric care prior to the murders, but Rosita and Howell Junior are not talking.

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The couple have said they are devastated and in disbelief that their son could have done such a thing. "Anybody that knows Trai knows that's not Trai". He was taken into custody last week at the McDonald's in Ybor City, where he works, after handing a gun to a co-worker, who later turned it over to police.

"We are seeking testimony that would only be in Mr. and Mrs. Donaldson's access and knowledge", said Pruner, when asked by Judge Margaret Taylor what the state's goal is with asking questions. Howell Donaldson Jr. could face contempt charges.

"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.

"We believe in him, and we're here for him", she added.

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

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

"(We felt) devastation for the family, and that was when it first started.

They previously told FOX 13 news that they still love their son, despite the accusations.

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