TAMPA, FL — The parents of the suspected Tampa serial killer have refused to cooperate with an investigative subpoena — and a judge has warned them that if their behavior continues, they could face charges themselves.
Howell Donaldson Jr. and his wife, Rosita, have until January 5 to comply with a subpoena from the state attorney’s office. They are the parents of Howell Donaldson III, who has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of four people in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa.
Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa, and Ronald Felton were all shot to death between October 9 and November 14.
A judge is scheduled to rule on whether the elder Donaldson should be held in contempt for refusing to provide testimony to state prosecutors Tuesday despite a subpoena that ordered him to do so, according to a motion.
On Monday, Howell Donaldson Jr. was served with the subpoena, which directed him to appear at the Office of the State Attorney to provide “truthful testimony.” But when he and his lawyer Ralph Fernandez arrived on Tuesday, he “refused to answer any question related to the investigation,” according to the motion.
At the Office of the State Attorney, Howell Donaldson Jr. would not answer any questions related to his son’s background, developmental history, mode of transportation, gun possession and ownership, or state of mind, according to the motion.
“Mr. Donaldson’s refusal to testify in the above-described proceeding, despite having received a court-authorized subpoena, constitutes indirect criminal contempt of this Honorable Court,” the motion states.
Rosita Donaldson, the murder suspect’s mother, is also implicated — although she’s not explicitly named in the motion, Fernandez told ABC News.
Only a few states have laws on the books that allow parent-child privilege — and Florida is not one of them.
“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 said. He added that his clients are in shock and devastated by their son’s alleged actions, and that they have been receiving death threats.
The killings made headlines for months and terrified the community. Donaldson III was arrested on November 28 after he handed his manager at McDonald’s a paper bag containing a firearm. Authorities later matched the weapon to the one that was used to kill all four victims.
Fernandez stated that there is a possibility that the state could seek the death penalty against him.
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Main photo: Howell Donaldson III [Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]