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Parents of murder suspect appear in court

08 December 2017

During a news conference Wednesday, State Attorney Andrew Warren said it's both reasonable and necessary for prosecutors to question the Donaldsons. But they refused, revealing only the names, addresses and birth dates of family members. "And when that duty is explained to them by a judge, theyre willing to provide us answers". "Their willful failure to answer questions is a contemptuous act of the authority of this court", he added.

"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. A similar motion was filed Wednesday afternoon against the mother, prosecutors said.

Their next court date is January 5 at 10 a.m.

The parents' attorney, Ralph Fernandez, argued Howell Jr. and Rosita Donaldson won't be put in a position to help determine life or death for their son if the death penalty is sought. Their refusal to answer questions was simply meant to avoid further emotional pain.

"I prayed for those families when it first started", Rosita Donaldson said, holding back tears. Investigators tried to question the parents about their son's background and state of mind. "Im hoping to avoid further grief".

Warren said the victims' families were notified Thursday after a grand jury handed up the indictment. "I'm a father, so I recognize and sympathize with the unenviable situation that they're in, but we have an ethical obligation to exhaust every investigative avenue to make sure we understood what happened in this case". "This is exactly the type of premeditated murder case that would merit the death penalty, and the victims and their families deserve justice".

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

Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, faces four counts of first-degree murder in deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton.

"I dont think its going to come to that", he said.

"We intend to prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law", said Warren.

Howell Donaldson III was arrested November 28 after his manager at a McDonald's restaurant in Tampa's Ybor City neighborhood alerted police to a McDonald's food bag containing a handgun.

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. Investigators later determined the gun was the same one used in each of the four shootings, an arrest report stated.

Howell Donaldson III, a Tampa native and graduate of St. John's University in New York City, is being held in a Hillsborough County jail without bond.

"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.

Parents of murder suspect appear in court