Parents of murder suspect appear in court


The attorney told the station the parents, who he described as the "perfect family", were interviewed separately and declined to answer questions about their son's mental health, his state of mind before the killings and whether he was under psychiatric care.

But both parents refused to answer Tuesday, defying an investigative subpoena, according to the Hillsborough State Attorneys Office.

"We just want to say that we do love our son, we support our son, and we pray strength for the family members and we just ask that they do the same for us and pray strength for us because we all are devastated", Rosita Donaldson said.

"That is a rarity", State Attorney Andrew Warren said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

If they continue to refuse to answer questions, they could face jail time. But they stopped answering questions during a meeting with investigators. Taylor ruled that the couple must "show cause" that they shouldn't be held in civil contempt.

In motions filed Wednesday, the state attorney's office said the parents' refusal to testify despite having received a court-authorized subpoena constitutes indirect criminal contempt. A similar motion was filed Wednesday afternoon against the mother, prosecutors said.

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In a Hillsborough County courtroom Thursday morning, Judge Margaret Taylor ordered Howell Donaldson Jr. and his wife, Rosita Donaldson, to return to court next month to show cause for why they should not be held in civil contempt of court. Their refusal to answer questions was simply meant to avoid further emotional pain. She said her son had a good relationship with his two grandparents and that the family had frequent gatherings around the holidays. We will not testify against their son. "Im hoping to avoid further grief".

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.

"Im a father. So I recognize and sympathize with the unenviable situation that theyre in", Warren said.

"We're not only trying to build a case against the defendant, we're trying to ask the broader question of why - a question that the victims' families and the community deserves to have answered", Warren said.

"Each time the response that was elicited was, 'I'm not going to answer that question, '" Fernandez said.

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

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Harmon began asking questions to establish a record.

He was arrested November 28 at the Ybor City McDonald's where he worked.

Donaldson was taken into custody last week, 51 days after the first murder, when a coworker at McDonald's tipped off police about his handgun. Investigators later determined the gun was the same one used in each of the four shootings, an arrest report stated.

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

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

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