TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – You could see it on their faces – fatigue, grief, shock.
The parents of the accused serial killer in the Seminole Heights case appeared in court on Thursday to explain why they will not give up any details on their son, Howell Donaldson III.
Prosecutors have pressed them for answers regarding their son’s whereabouts and actions prior to the four murders that began back on Oct. 9.
The parents have steadfastly refused to answer any questions only to say, “With all due respect, I refuse to answer the question.”
According to their attorney, Ralph Fernandez, the parents can’t eat. They can’t sleep. They are depressed. They are under so much stress that their own health is now at risk. They are currently in hiding, unable to go home – even receiving death threats.
“There are safety issues. You know, it’s just a nightmare.”
The father is also said to be in poor health, suffering two heart attacks in years past. Those surrounding the family are fearful he could suffer a third.
“What would you do… if the police came to tell you, you had to testify against your child?”
Paperwork shows that the state is trying to determine the exact state of mind of their son – his demeanor “emotionally, psychiatrically, intellectually, educationally.”
They also asked about his childhood, specifically “prenatal care, any difficulties with birth, head injury, chronic illnesses, or trauma to his body.”
The parents will not talk about it. They were ordered today to return to court on Jan. 5, prepared to answer those questions.
Meanwhile, a grand jury returned with an indictment today outlining four charges of premeditated murder against their son.
“It destroys a parent, it destroys a person It’s like your child dying,” said Dr. Walter Afield, a longtime Tampa Bay area psychiatrist, in practice for 54 years. He explained that the actions of the mother and father are not unusual and that most parents would never testify against their own child.
“Your loyalty to your child comes first in anything You give your life up for your child if you’re going to be a good parent,” said Dr. Afield. “You’re willing to die for them.”
Howell Donaldson III will be arraigned on Tuesday.
MORE ON THE SEMINOLE HEIGHTS MURDERS-
- Attorney: Parents of Seminole Heights serial murder suspect ‘heartbroken’
- Suspected serial killer tells police he was unfamiliar with Seminole Heights neighborhood
- Arrest of Seminole Heights murder suspect stuns his friends and neighbors
- Victims’ families relieved over arrest in Seminole Heights murder case
- Terror in Seminole Heights: Timeline of the 51-day manhunt and how it came to an end
- Seminole Heights murder suspect Howell Donaldson transported to jail