January contempt hearing set for parents of suspect in Seminole Heights killings


Accused murderer's parents face contempt charges

At a court hearing Thursday morning, a judge said the parents must "show cause as to why they shouldn't be held in contempt for refusing to cooperate".

Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner in arguing before the judge Thursday, Dec. 7, said parents Howell Jr. and Rosita Donaldson responded to the state's subpoena for information but refused not to answer questions.

"They knew when they went in that they were not going to answer questions that would lead to the execution of their son", the attorney told Judge Taylor. She added that the Donaldsons may go to the state attorney at any time before the court date if they choose to answer questions.

Answers to those questions potentially could be used to determine whether Donaldson III murdered four people this fall in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood. A judge ordered Howell Jr. and Rosita Donaldson back to court on January 5 to explain why they are not cooperating with investigators. "Because most people understand that they have a duty to answer questions".

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The younger Donaldson faces four counts of first-degree murder in the apparently random shooting spree.

Warren said he met with the victim's families Wednesday for two hours to discuss the prosecution and what comes next. They have had trouble sleeping, have thought about leaving town, and received at least one death threat. "They have an interest in protecting their child", he said.

Prior to Thursday's hearing, Fernandez told ABC News that the Donaldsons were "fully advised" on their actions and are "ready to take the effect".

"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. Anthony Naiboa, a 20-year-old man authorities described as having mild autism, was killed October 19 after taking the wrong bus home from work, according to police. "I still believe in an America that respects that great family value".

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He faces four charges of murder and could receive the death penalty if convicted.

Ralph Fernandez, an attorney for the parents, said afterward that he hoped something could be worked out before then. Donaldson waived a formal hearing on his pretrial detention, so he will be held without bond for the charges, according to a court order released Monday.

"He needs to know that we love him and we support him and we need to see him", Rosita Donaldson said.

Howell Donaldson III graduated from St. John's University in NY in January 2017 and was a walk-on for the men's basketball team during the 2011-12 season, according to Brian Browne, executive director of university relations. "Prosecutors in general, they tend to avoid having family members testify for or against family members in situations like this".

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