National News

Seminole Heights Killings: Howell Donaldson III held without bond, faces 4 counts 1st degree murder

Posted November 30, 2017 11:18 a.m. EST

— The man police believe shot and killed four people over a span of six weeks in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa made his first court appearance on Thursday morning.

A judge ruled Howell Emanuel Donaldson III to be held without bond until his next hearing on Tuesday, December 5 at 10 a.m.

On Wednesday morning, Howell Emanuel Donaldson III was booked into jail and charged with four counts of First-Degree murder in connection to the murders of Benjamin Mitchell , Monica Hoffa , Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton .

THE INVESTIGATION AFTER POLICE RECEIVE TIP

Fifty-one days after the first of four murders in Seminole Heights, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said he was "optimistic" they had found the suspect behind the killings when they responded to a tip about a man with a gun at an Ybor City McDonald's.

A witness told police Donaldson walked into the McDonald's Tuesday at approximately 2:45 p.m. and handed them a McDonald's food bag containing a loaded .40-caliber Glock firearm and said he planned to leave the state.

Donaldson later returned to the McDonald's where he was approached by Tampa police and he agreed to go to Tampa Police headquarters for further questioning.

The arrest affidavit says Donaldson gave consent to conduct a search of his car and cell phone, as well as permission to examine his firearm at the F.D.L.E. laboratory. Read more .

Police say that Donaldson admitted to buying the Glock firearm and ammunition from Shooter's World on Fletcher Avenue in September but documents show it was actually purchased in October. Donaldson further attested to the fact that he was the only one who had control of the Glock firearm since purchasing it.

Donaldson told police that he was unfamiliar with the Seminole Heights neighborhood, and did not have any association with anyone in the area, according to the arrest affidavit.

THE ARREST

Howell Emanuel Donaldson, 24, was arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree murder. A search of Donaldson's cell phone location data placed him in the Seminole Heights area when Benjamin Mitchell , Monica Hoffa and Anthony Naiboa were killed. Glock cartridge casings found at the scenes of the homicides were later matched to the gun found in Donaldson's procession.

Arrest documents reveal key evidence against suspected Seminole Heights killer

Seminole Heights Killings: Timeline & Arrest

When police searched Donaldson's car, they found clothing that looked similar to the clothes worn by the subject captured in surveillance video the night Benjamin Mitchell was murdered. The arrest affidavit states that police saw what appeared to be a blood stain on an article of clothing.

"I want the highest penalty," said Casimar Naiboa, Anthony Naiboa's father.

"Anthony is never going to enjoy his family. We're never going to see him become a man. Enjoy his brother and sister. Nothing is going to replace that," he said.

"We have caught him and spared our community," said Bobby Hoffa, Monica Hoffa's Uncle.

In a statement released late Tuesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott commended the "relentless effort" of the Tampa police and other local law enforcement, who worked tirelessly on the case.

"As a father and a grandfather, it is unimaginable what the families of these victims are going through," Scott said. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with them, and we will work to ensure that they receive the justice they deserve. In Florida, we have absolutely zero tolerance for this type of evil behavior and anyone responsible will be held to the fullest extent of the law."

THE SUSPECT

ABC Action News is looking further into the past of the 24-year-old man suspected of killing four people in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. Howell Emanuel Donaldson III also went by the name "Trai." Donaldson was a graduate of St. John's University in New York City, but a Tampa native with a Town 'N' Country address.

THE LATEST ON THE INVESTIGATION AFTER THE ARREST

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and family members of the victims held a news conference on Wednesday morning to provide more details on the arrest and investigation.

During the news conference, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan stressed how important obtaining the gun involved was to the investigation. He said "the gun is what we needed. The same gun was used in all four murders." "We still have tremendous amount of work to get a conviction in this case," the Chief said.