Seminole Heights victims’ families call death penalty meeting with State Attorney ‘overwhelming’

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Family members who lost a loved one at the hands of the Seminole Heights serial killer described the day as “overwhelming.”

Victims’ relatives met with State Attorney Andrew Warren, in an up-close, face-to-face meeting regarding the death penalty.

At 1 p.m., those family members showed up one by one. They embraced one another and offered support on a day when they needed it most.

The aunt of Benjamin Mitchell, Angelique Dupree, told us, “We are connected. We all are connected. We’re going to share this for the rest of our lives.”

She admitted that this will be a difficult process for all parties involved.

The question at hand – would the relatives of the victims be in favor of, or against the death penalty regarding Howell Donaldson III?

Right now, his parents are refusing to any questions regarding their son. In particular, prosecutors questioned the parents regarding his “background, developmental history, mode of transportation, gun possession or ownership, and state of mind.”

Ultimately, they refused to provide any details in these areas and will go before a judge Thursday to explain why.

“It has set in that this is real,” Dupree added. “But, then, there’s some part of you that doesn’t want to think it is.”

Dupree’s nephew, Ben, was the killer’s first victim on Oct. 9.

His father, she explained, was talking just yesterday about facing Christmas without his son.  That seems to be one of the most difficult parts of this case, according to the families – facing the holidays for the first time without those they love most.

“He was saying some things about the holidays,” said Dupree, as she talked about Benjamin’s father.  “It just took him back to how he and Ben had made some plans.”

As far as the specifics of the two-hour, closed-door conversation?  Families kept much of the content private.  They maintain that the meeting with deeply personal and candid. The State Attorney had maintained all along that he wanted to hear from victims’ family members before deciding whether or not to seek the death penalty.

Warren still has yet to make up his mind. He will most likely announce his decision before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, for Benjamin Mitchell’s family and others, the process is draining and very emotional.

“It is a lot mentally. It does drain you a lot mentally because it’s always on your mind,” said Dupree.

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