Accused murderer's parents face contempt charges

12_5_BN9_angie_dupree_01

12_5_BN9_angie_dupree_01

Answers to those questions potentially could be used to determine whether Donaldson III murdered four people this fall in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood.

The indictment was announced hours after a state court judge ordered the parents of suspect Howell "Trai" Donaldson III to appear in court on January 5 to "show cause" on why they shouldn't be held in civil contempt for refusing to answer investigators' questions about the case. The four were shot to death in October and November in southeast Seminole Heights.

Warren said the next step in the case is for the Donaldson to be arraigned.

"The indictment means the grand jury has found that probable cause exists that the defendant committed each of these four murders", he told reporters. He told the Judge they can't sleep and they have even thought of leaving town.

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. Investigators tried to question the parents about their son's background and state of mind.

Judge Taylor decided that if the Donaldsons refuse to answer questions under oath, they could face civil contempt of court, rather than criminal.

Taylor, citing case law from a Miami-area judge, ordered the parents to appear in court January 5, 2018, to show cause as to why they should not be held in civil contempt.

"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. They are considering moving and fear for the safety of a younger child. A pretrial detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday was canceled because the case has not yet been assigned to a division.

"I don't think that there is a greater treasure than the family", he said.

"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. An employee of a McDonalds in Ybor City, where Donaldson worked, called police after he handed her a food bag that held a gun, according to police.

Police say the evidence against Donaldson is compelling. Cellphone location data also connected him to areas near the killings when they occurred, the affidavit stated.

If found guilty of murder, the accused Seminole Heights killer should receive the death penalty, so say Republican attorney general candidates Ashley Moody and Ross Spano.

Donaldson's father, Howell Donaldson Jr. "And then when they arrested my son, devastation, because I love my son and it was disbelief that this was happening to our family".

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