Judge warns accused serial killer's parents: Cooperate or explain why not

Judge warns accused serial killer's parents: Cooperate or explain why not

The parents of suspected Seminole Heights killer will have to appear in court on Friday, Jan. 5, to show why they should not be held in civil contempt of court for refusing to answer questions about their son.

Howell Donaldson III, 24, is facing four counts of first degree murder in the Seminole Heights killings.

Defense attorney Ralph Fernandez told the judge the Donaldsons are "devastated" and have received death threats since their son's arrest last week.

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.

State prosecutors say the Donaldsons have willfully refused to provide testimony and answer questions about their son, despite a subpoena that ordered them to do so.

Circuit Judge Margaret Taylor set a new court date of January 5, when the Donaldsons will have to explain their refusal to answer questions.

Both the state and the Donaldsons' attorney had a chance to plead their case before the judge came to her decision.

"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. He says most people understand they have a duty to answer questions.

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"Admittedly, they knew when they went they were not going to answer questions that would lead to the execution of their son", Fernandez told the judge Thursday morning.

Their son was arrested November 28 on four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton. "That's why this is a hard cause because of the fact that from the inception that's why the Donaldson's have been devastated".

Warren said the parents would have immunity - that nothing the Donaldson's would say could be used against them.

Rosita Donaldson said she and her husband have a 28-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son.

The coworker then notified a Tampa Police officer, leading to Donaldson's arrest.

Refusing to testify could put the Donaldsons in jail for several months.

Judge Margaret Taylor on Thursday set a January 5 hearing for Howell Jr. and Rosita Donaldson. "I still believe in an America that respects that great family value".

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