Florida

Serial killer suspect gave his gun to McDonald’s boss, cops say. Now, he could face death penalty.

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announces he will seek the death penalty against Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, suspected of randomly killing four people and terrorizing a Florida neighborhood for several months, as he speaks at the State Attorney's Office in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018.
Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announces he will seek the death penalty against Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, suspected of randomly killing four people and terrorizing a Florida neighborhood for several months, as he speaks at the State Attorney's Office in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. AP

A McDonald’s employee who brought a loaded handgun to the fast-food restaurant and handed it to his manager while he ran an errand could face the death penalty if he is convicted in the slayings of four people in Tampa at the end of last year.

On Tuesday, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said he will seek the death penalty against 24-year-old Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, who has been charged with killing four people from October through November in the neighborhood known as Seminole Heights. Warren announced the decision at a news conference in Tampa and posted the statement letter on the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Facebook page.

Donaldson was arrested on Nov. 28 and charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of the four victims — Benjamin Mitchell, 22, Monica Hoffa, 32, Anthony Naiboa, 20, and Ronald Felton, 60.

Warren said the crimes are consistent with seeking a death penalty.

“The law is clear: we reserve the death penalty for the most aggravated and least mitigated capital offenses. This case, in which the defendant murdered four innocent victims in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner, qualifies. A prosecutor’s pursuit of justice should be tempered by mercy. But some crimes are so unconscionable, so hard to fathom, that I must leave mercy to a higher power, and focus instead on achieving justice for the victims and their families,” Warren wrote in the letter.

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This file booking photo provided by the Tampa Police Department on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, shows Howell Emanuel Donaldson III. Tampa Police Department AP

The killings terrorized the neighborhood as residents feared a serial killer.

Donaldson was captured after handing a bag containing a handgun to his manager at a McDonald’s restaurant near the neighborhood where the bodies were found, police said. His manager, Delonda Walker, will collect the $110,000 reward for reaching out to police and giving them the gun, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said in a press conference in December.

That press conference made news when it was discovered sign-language interpreter Derlyn Roberts was signing gibberish rather than what officials were saying.

“I understand that some in our community will agree with my decision; some will not,” Warren wrote in the letter. “But deciding whether to seek death is not about what’s popular or politically convenient. It requires far more than that. My obligation is to evaluate all the evidence to determine whether there is a legal basis for the death penalty and to consider the wishes of the victims’ families for how we best achieve justice for their loved ones. And that is exactly what we did.”

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