Published: Thu, December 07, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Accused murderer's parents face contempt charges

Accused murderer's parents face contempt charges

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The parents of the 24-year-old man suspected in a string of fatal shootings that terrorized a Florida neighborhood must "show cause" on why they shouldn't be held in civil contempt for refusing to answer investigators' questions about the case, a judge ruled Thursday.

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

The Tampa Bay Times reports investigators wanted to question the Donaldsons on Tuesday about their son's background, developmental history, gun possession and state of mind.

"This is a very hard case", said the couple's attorney, Ralph Fernandez.

If the Donaldsons are forced to answer questions, it could happen as soon as today.

"They are willing to go to jail not to testify against their son", he said.

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.

Fernandez questioned why prosecutors would take such an "extraordinary step", given the evidence they claim to have against the younger Donaldson.

The newspaper reports that on Tuesday, Andrew Shafii, one of two attorneys who accompanied Rosita Donaldson, told prosecutors neither parent would testify.

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. "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". "They are being asked to render testimony against their son".

"Everybody is in disbelief", Rosita Donaldson told CNN affiliate WFTS on Friday. "He doesn't have the personality of that character". 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. Police detained Donaldson and determined that his specific firearm was used in all four of the killings, according to the criminal affidavit. Howell Donaldson Jr. could face contempt charges.

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. 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.

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. "Our hearts go out to the families and the loss that they have".

Fernandez also said the Donaldsons have been devastated and have reached out in prayer to the victims, their families and the Seminole Heights community. Instead, the parents spoke emotionally about their family and the families of the victims. You put a family member on the witness stand, who knows what they're going to say.

"(We felt) devastation for the family, and that was when it first started. "I still believe in an America that respects that great family value".

They previously told FOX 13 news that they still love their son, despite the accusations.

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