Published: Fri, December 08, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Parents of Seminole Heights murders suspect to appear before judge

Parents of Seminole Heights murders suspect to appear before judge

"Were not only trying to build a case against the defendant, were trying to ask the broader question of why", Warren said. The couple appeared at the state attorney's office Tuesday but refused to answer any questions related to the investigation of their son's alleged involvement in the killings, according to court documents.

The Donaldson's attorney, Ralph E. Fernandez, hasn't offered a legal argument for why they aren't cooperating with the investigation, only saying it is too soon for them to be forced to answer questions.

Warren said the victims' families were notified Thursday after a grand jury handed up the indictment.

Howell Jr. and Rosita Donaldson, the parents of 24-year-old Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, were unhelpful when asked to discuss his developmental history, state of mind, gun possession and other topics, according to the Hillsborough State Attorneys Office.

Circuit Judge Margaret Taylor set a new court date of January 5, when the Donaldsons will have to explain their refusal to answer questions.

Earlier Thursday, an attorney for one of Donaldson's parents said during a hearing that they are considering leaving town after receiving death threats. They are considering moving and fear for the safety of a younger child.

It's a decision that the judge could change after the couple's January 5 hearing if they continue not to cooperate. A pretrial detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday was canceled because the case has not yet been assigned to a division.

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"I think it shocks the conscience of Americans to be part of a system of justice that is identical on this issue as North Korea, Cuba, Syria and Iran, where parents are compelled to testify against their children and children against their parents", Fernandez told ABC News Wednesday.

"I think its important to safeguard these truly significant family values in this time of tremendous family stress", he said.

Donaldson, 24, was arrested November 28 after he handed a food bag, containing what police say is the gun used in all four Seminole Heights murders, to his boss at an Ybor City McDonald's, according to Tampa police. Cellphone location data also connected him to areas near the killings when they occurred, the affidavit stated.

Warren did not say whether he would pursue the death penalty for Donaldson, if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

But Donaldson Jr. and his wife, Rosita Donaldson have not answered all of their questions.

Investigators are still unsure of a motive behind the four killings and do not yet know of a connection between Howell Donaldson III and the neighborhood where the killings took place.

Attorneys for the family declined to comment on whether they had seen the surveillance video of the suspect that police released weeks ago. "And then when they arrested my son, devastation, because I love my son and it was disbelief that this was happening to our family". Instead, the parents spoke emotionally about their family and the families of the victims.

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