TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Suspected serial killer Howell Emanuel Donaldson III is being held without bond at the Hillsborough County Jail until another hearing on Tuesday.
Donaldson, 24, made his initial court appearance Thursday morning after being arrested on four counts of first-degree murder Tuesday. He was represented by the Law Office of Julianne M. Holt, a public defender.
A judge ordered that Donaldson be held without bond—at least until Tuesday—on four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton who were shot within a half mile of each other between October 9 and November 14. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. The judge said a hearing will be held Tuesday to determine whether Donaldson will continue to be held without bond.
“We intend to charge the defendant with four counts of first-degree murder which requires bringing the case before the grand jury to obtain an indictment,” said Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said at a press conference Thursday. “For the community’s safety, we’re seeking that the defendant be held without bail during the trial.”
During the pretrial detention hearing Tuesday, the state is expected to produce more in-depth evidence to bolster their argument against Donaldson, calling on witnesses such as the lead detective on the case to prove Donaldson is a flight risk and that no conditions of any bond can ensure the public’s safety.
Warren said no charges have been filed against Donaldson at this time, but prosecutors are preparing to charge Donaldson with four counts of first-degree murder.
At the moment, it’s unclear if the death penalty is on the table. Warren said there were a number of mitigating factors to consider before pursuing the death penalty.
Police said the break in the case came Tuesday at a Ybor City McDonald’s after Donaldson gave his handgun—identified in a police report as a loaded .40-caliber Glock—in a food bag to a coworker, who turned the gun over to police.
According to an arrest affidavit, the gun confiscated Tuesday contained five unfired rounds of SIG brand Smith and Wesson .40 bullets, a direct match to the fired cartridge casings recovered from all four murder scenes.
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said Donaldson admitted that he owned the gun, but did not admit to the murders.
Cell phone records obtained by detectives showed Donaldson was within minutes of the first three murders and that his cell phone was geographically associated with cell towers in the area.
Police received more than 5,000 tips connected to the case.
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