Terror in Seminole Heights: Timeline of the 51-day manhunt and how it came to an end

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Late Tuesday night, Tampa police charged a man with four recent murders in the Seminole Heights area. The arrest of 24-year-old Howell Emanuel Donaldson came 51 days after the first murder happened.

(From Upper left to right) Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton were all gunned down in Seminole Heights.

Newly-released documents from police are shedding light on the timeline of events in the murder case.

OCTOBER 3: 

  • Donaldson purchases a Glock firearm from Shooter’s World on East Fletcher Avenue

OCTOBER 7: 

  • Donaldson picks up the Glock firearm he purchased and buys a 20-round box of SIG brand Smith and Wesson ammunition

OCTOBER 9: 

  • Benjamin Mitchell is shot four times and dies while waiting at a HART bus stop on North 15th Street around 9 p.m.
  • Police find two fired SIG brand Smith and Wesson .40 caliber cartridge casings at the scene
  • Cell phone data places Donaldson in the area of Frierson Avenue between 8:47 p.m. and 9:02 p.m.

OCTOBER 11: 

  • Police respond to reports of gunshots in the area of North 11th Street near East Orleans Avenue around 8:45 p.m.
  • A friend says he was on his way to meet Monica Hoffa around the same time as the gunshots were reported, but he never met up with her and didn’t hear from her
  • Cell phone data places Donaldson in the area of Frierson Avenue between 8:18 p.m. and 8:42 p.m.

OCTOBER 13:

  • City work crew finds Monica Hoffa’s body in an overgrown lot on the corner of East New Orleans Avenue and North 11th Street with three gunshot wounds
  • Five fired SIG brand Smith and Wesson .40 caliber cartridge casings are found at the scene

OCTOBER 17:

  • Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan says the murders of Mitchell and Hoffa are related by time frame, proximity and circumstance
  • Chief Dugan releases surveillance video showing a man walking in the area around the time Mitchell was murdered and asks for more video from residents

OCTOBER 19:

  • Anthony Naiboa is shot and killed by a single round while walking along North 15th Street just before 8 p.m. after getting off a bus
  • One SIG brand Smith and Wesson .40 caliber fired cartridge casing is found at the scene
  • Cell phone data places Donaldson in the area of Frierson Avenue between 7:51 p.m. and 7:58 p.m.

OCTOBER 20:

  • Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay announces partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to offer a $25,000 reward for information leading to arrest in the three shooting deaths

OCTOBER 21: 

  • HART says it is taking extra precautions in “light of recent events” and reroutes Bus Route 9

OCTOBER 22:

  • Seminole Heights community holds vigil for Mitchell, Hoffa and Naiboa

OCTOBER 25:

  • TECO adds more lighting in Seminole Heights to help improve security
  • Mayor Bob Buckhorn tells police during a roll to “bring his head to me” of the Seminole Heights killer

OCTOBER 26:

  • Police release new video from the night Mitchell was murdered that shows a person running away from the scene after it happens
  • Chief Dugan says the person is the same person who was seen in the video released on Oct. 17 and calls them a “person of interest”
  • Reward for information in the case increases to $35,000 thanks to FDLE

OCTOBER 30:

  • Community announces it will sell “We Are Seminole Heights” T-shirts to raise money for the families of the murder victims

OCTOBER 31:

  • Mayor Buckhorn and Chief Dugan trick or treat with families in Seminole Heights

NOVEMBER 5:

  • A mural and banner are unveiled to honor Mitchell, Hoffa and Naiboa in Seminole Heights
  • Neighborhood holds “Tase of the Heights” — the first major event since the murders began

NOVEMBER 8:

  • Reward for information increases to $41,000

NOVEMBER 14:

  • Ronald Felton is shot and killed while crossing North Nebraska Avenue around 4:50 a.m. on his way to his church to help feed the homeless
  • Four SIG brand Smith and Wesson .40 caliber fired cartridge casings are recovered from the scene
  • A witness tells police she saw a black male about 6-feet tall with a thin, strong build shoot Felton then run from the scene
  • FBI SWAT members go door-to-door in Seminole Heights looking for the killer

NOVEMBER 15:

  • Police release surveillance video taken before Felton’s murder that shows the same “person of interest” who was caught on video near the scene of Mitchell’s murder
  • Chief Dugan calls the person a “suspect”
  • Reward for information increases to $91,000
  • Chief Dugan says Tampa police have received 2,300 tips regarding the four murders
  • Law enforcement continues door-to-door search for killer
  • The Salvation Army encourages homeless people in Seminole Heights to stay at worship center
  • The food pantry that Felton worked at reopens in his honor

NOVEMBER 16:

  • Governor Rick Scott directs FHP and FDLE officers to Seminole Heights to help Tampa police
  • Reward for information increases to $100,000
  • Police put up 12 billboards around Tampa to spread the word about the reward for information
  • Tampa police say they are confident one person is responsible for all four murders and believe the person lives in Seminole Heights

NOVEMBER 20:

  • Reward for information reaches $110,000 – the largest reward in the history of the Tampa Police Department
  • FHP troopers begin patrols in Seminole Heights
  • Seminole Heights families hold dinner to thank first responders

NOVEMBER 21:

  • Governor Scott makes unannounced trip to Seminole Heights and meets with family of Monica Hoffa

NOVEMBER 23:

  • Business owner serves up 300 hot meals on Thanksgiving Day for members of the Seminole Heights community and police officers

NOVEMBER 24:

  • Mounted police patrol Seminole Heights
  • Code enforcement officers check vacant homes and alleys in the neighborhood

NOVEMBER 25:

  • Seminole Heights neighborhood celebrates Small Business Saturday

NOVEMBER 27:

  • Seminole Heights residents begin a community effort to “Light the Heights” by putting up Christmas lights on every street and home to help with patrols

NOVEMBER 28:

  • A witness tells a Tampa police officer at the Ybor City McDonald’s that Donaldson gave them a food bag with a .40 caliber Glock inside of it and talked about leaving the state
  • Donaldson is detained at the McDonald’s and gives officers permission to search his car and phone as well as examine his gun
  • Donaldson is arrested on four counts of first-degree murder

NOVEMBER 29:

  • Police release arrest report on Donaldson, detailing evidence against him and what led them to arrest him
  • Gov. Scott visits Tampa to thank police officers for their hard work
  • Richard Gonzmart gives a $9,000 reward to the McDonald’s manager who checked Donaldson’s bag and found the gun
  • HART announces it will resume regular route service along 15th Street beginning Nov. 30

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