Accused murderer's parents face contempt charges

Cheryl Sanders
December 8, 2017

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.

But both parents refused to answer Tuesday, defying an investigative subpoena, according to the Hillsborough State Attorneys Office. They can answer prosecutors' questions before then if wanted.

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.

The judge opted to pursue indirect civil contempt in place of criminal contempt, and gave the Donaldson's until after the holidays to prove their case. A similar motion was filed Wednesday afternoon against the mother, prosecutors said.

"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.

A hearing is scheduled in court for 10 a.m. Thursday.

Prosecutor Jay Pruner argued there is no privilege that allows the parents to avoid answering questions. "There's no sense of duty for you to give only what someone else seeks to make a better case, shall I say, against their son when that would be manifestly unfair, premature and untimely". "Im hoping to avoid further grief".

"We are taking every investigative avenue and using every investigative tool at our disposal to build as a strong a case as possible to hold the defendant accountable for his crimes", Warren said.

"Im a father. So I recognize and sympathize with the unenviable situation that theyre in", Warren said.

Fernandez also said the Donaldsons have been devastated and have reached out in prayer to the victims, their families and the Seminole Heights community.

He was asked if the parents might be fined or jailed for their refusal to comply.

"Each time the response that was elicited was, 'I'm not going to answer that question, '" Fernandez said.

Howell Donaldson, III is accused of murdering Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton using the same weapon.

Rosita Donaldson and Howell Donaldson Jr., spoke after their son was arrested and accused of killing four people in Tampa, Florida. 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 and asking her to watch it. Investigators later determined the gun was the same one used in each of the four shootings, an arrest report stated.

"It's implicit ... that they want something from them that will ideal the case so that, perhaps, their son is executed and it's one of these concepts that is very hard for any parent", Fernandez said of the state.

Donaldson has been jailed without bail since his arrest.

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