Judge orders parents of suspected Tampa serial killer to appear in court after their refusal to testify

A Florida judge has ordered the parents of a suspected serial killer to appear in court next month to explain why they shouldn’t be penalized for refusing to speak to investigators.

In a Hillsborough County courtroom this morning, Judge Margaret Taylor ordered Howell Donaldson Jr. and his wife, Rosita Donaldson, to return to court next month to show cause for why they should not be held in civil contempt of court.

Their 24-year-old son, Howell Donaldson III, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in connection to the recent slayings that terrorized Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.

State prosecutors say the Donaldsons have willfully refused to provide testimony and answer questions about their son, despite a subpoena that ordered them to do so. Florida state law does not allow for parent-child privilege.

“We are seeking to conduct a thorough investigation of the matters involving the violent loss of four lives. And as our statutory obligation, our ethical obligation dictates us to exhaust every lawful investigative avenue,” assistant state attorney Jay Pruner told the judge this morning. “We are seeking testimony that would only be within Mr. and Mrs. Donaldson’s access of knowledge. That’s the purpose of this motion ultimately; that’s our intent and our hope they would comply and answer our questions.”

Howell Donaldson Jr. and Rosita Donaldson were subpoenaed to speak with investigators Monday. The couple appeared at the state attorney’s office Tuesday but refused to answer any questions related to the investigation of their son’s alleged involvement in the killings, according to court documents.

Defense attorney Ralph Fernandez told the judge the Donaldsons are “devastated” and have received death threats since their son’s arrest last week.

“Admittedly, they knew when they went they were not going to answer questions that would lead to the execution of their son,” Fernandez told the judge this morning. “That’s why…

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