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Accused murderer's parents face contempt charges

Accused murderer's parents face contempt charges

"Each time the response that was elicited was, 'I'm not going to answer that question, '" Fernandez said.

They hugged and embraced just before they met with Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren in downtown Tampa to talk about the suspected Seminole Heights killer, Howell Donaldson III, and whether the state should seek the death penalty.

At the 10 a.m. hearing Thursday, prosecutors are expected to ask the Donaldsons personal and detailed questions about their son's mental health, along with other questions varying from whether they knew if he owned a gun to basics about his auto, clothing and developmental history.

The younger Donaldson has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder in connection with four fatal shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in October and November. The loaded weapon linked the 24-year-old to the killings, authorities said. They wanted to ask the alleged gunman's parents about his background, mental state and the gun.

Ralph Fernandez, the attorney representing the parents, said the family has been devastated since their sons arrest.

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"They haven't slept. They can't function".

Their attorney revealed today that they have had trouble sleeping and have considered leaving town after receiving death threats. "They feel hostages in their own home".

"Were trying to ask a broader question as to why — a question that the victims families and the community deserves to have answered", he said. "There's no sense of duty for you to give only what someone else seeks to make a better case, shall I say, against their son when that would be manifestly unfair, premature and untimely".

However, an attorney for the Donaldsons said they refused to answer certain questions because they do not want to be a witness against their son.

Judge Margaret Taylor said she was signing an order to show cause compelling the Donaldsons to either answer questions under oath or face a civil contempt citation. But the serious charges against their son is the reason they plan to stay silent.


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