State Attorney to Seeks Death Penalty for Accused Tampa Serial Killer

TAMPA, Fla. (CN) – The man accused of randomly killing four people in Tampa last year will face the death penalty if convicted.

Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren made his intentions known in the case of Howell Emanuel Donaldson III Tuesday morning.

“After reviewing the evidence, analyzing the legal factors, speaking with the victim’s families and taking time for the quiet reflection that this tremendous responsibility demands … this office will seek the sentence of death,” Warren said at a press conference.

“Some crimes are so unconscionable, so hard to fathom, that we must leave mercy to a higher power and instead focus on achieving justice for the victims and their families,”  he said.

Donaldson, 24, was arrested Nov. 28, ending a 51-day manhunt that included local law enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and even patrols by the Guardian Angels, the non-profit volunteer crime-prevention organization.

The killings, occurring within blocks of one another, led to the cancellation of several neighborhood events and inspired residents to travel in pairs.

The final victim, 60-year-old Ronald Felton, was shot after leaving a church food pantry where he volunteered and crossed the street to meet a friend.

His assailant came from behind Felton, shot him in the back of the head and ran off. Tampa police were only blocks away, but the gunman still escaped.

That murder occurred a short distance from a mural memorializing the previous three victims: Benjamin Mitchell, 22, shot Oct. 9 while waiting for a bus; 32-year-old Monica Hoffa, a waitress at IHOP, found dead in a vacant lot on Oct. 13; and Anthony Naiboa, 20, shot on Oct. 19 while walking down a neighborhood street after taking the wrong bus home.

Donaldson’s arrest came after a McDonald’s co-worker tipped off police. According to his arrest affidavit, Donaldson asked the restaurant manager to hold a bag containing a semi-automatic weapon while he walked to a nearby business for a payday loan. The manager alerted a Tampa police officer who was doing paperwork at a table in the restaurant. When Donaldson returned to the restaurant, police arrested him. The affidavit shows Donaldson’s gun matches bullet casings found at three of the crime scenes.

Donaldson is currently being held without bond at Tampa’s Orient County Jail. He has no criminal record in Florida, according to court records, only several traffic citations.

Warren, the state attorney, said there is “no evidence of mental illness or any other mitigating factor that gives us pause.”

He also said the families were divided on their personal beliefs regarding the death penalty, but supported his decision.

“The death penalty is for the worst of the worst, crimes that are far more egregious than the typical murder,” Warren said. “That’s exactly what we have here.”

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