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

Donaldson

The couple, during their meeting with investigators, knew "they were not going to answer questions that would lead to the execution of their son", Fernandez told the judge. The couple appeared at the state attorney's office Tuesday but refused to answer any questions related to the investigation of their son's alleged involvement in the killings, according to court documents.

During a news conference Wednesday, State Attorney Andrew Warren said it's both reasonable and necessary for prosecutors to question the Donaldsons.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The parents of the 24-year-old man suspected in a string of fatal shootings that terrorized a Florida neighborhood must "show cause" on why they shouldn't be held in civil contempt for refusing to answer investigators' questions about the case, a judge ruled Thursday.

Accused Seminole Heights killer, Howell Donaldson III, has been indicted by a Grand Jury.

The Donaldson's attorney, Ralph E. Fernandez, hasn't offered a legal argument for why they aren't cooperating with the investigation, only saying it is too soon for them to be forced to answer questions. If they still refuse, she decided, they'd face civil contempt of court, rather than criminal - which means no jail time for not speaking.

Unlike some states, Florida has no law establishing "parent-child privilege", which would keep communications between them confidential.

Howell Donaldson Jr. and Rosita Donaldson were subpoenaed to speak with investigators Monday. "Not only the personal tragedy, but they have extended their condolences repeatedly to the victims that suffered greatly".

After the hearing, Fernandez told reporters that the contempt case amounted to putting "family values on trial". He described their situation as "tough" and "complex".

Donaldson, 24, was arrested November 28 after he handed a food bag, containing what police say is the gun used in all four Seminole Heights murders, to his boss at an Ybor City McDonald's, according to Tampa police.

Earlier Thursday, an attorney for one of Donaldson's parents said during a hearing that they are considering leaving town after receiving death threats.

Seminole Heights residents and police had been on edge since October 9, when 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell was shot to death.

Ronald Felton, 60, was shot at approximately 4:51 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14. He has not yet entered a plea.

Any type of exchange won't take place in open court though. Police do not believe there are any other suspects in the case.

"I don't think that there is a greater treasure than the family", he said. "And then when they arrested my son, devastation, because I love my son and it was disbelief that this was happening to our family".

The Tampa Bay Times reports Rosita Donaldson told investigators she and her husband also have a 28-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son. "And we question why".

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