TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – In a stunning twist, the Seminole Heights serial killer case has taken a turn that few saw coming. The parents of the accused killer are now willing to go to jail.
According to their attorney, they are doing all they can to protect their son, Howell Donaldson, including refusing to answer personal and detailed questions about his mental health.
On Tuesday, the parents were put in the hot seat by prosecutors as the State Attorney’s Office began digging deeper into the background of the 24-year-old, accused of murdering four people in Seminole Heights.
Prosecutors want answers about the young man at the center of the case. Did he suffer from mental health issues? What was his state of mind leading up to the murders? Was he under psychiatric care at that time?
The state went straight to the source for the answers, sending a subpoena to the suspect’s mother and father.
Their answer – was no answer.
Defense attorney Ralph Fernandez is representing the parents.
On Tuesday after the parents were questioned, he shared with News Channel 8 the reaction of the mother and father when they were asked to provide details about their son. This is how the attorney described the reaction from his clients.
“One of the two said, ‘testify against our son,’” he said. “’You mean to testify against our baby?’”
Ultimately, the parents refused to give up any information about their son.
Each of them was questioned separately, in different rooms. They gave the same answer to every inquiry.
“Each time the response that was elicited was, ‘I’m not going to answer that question,’” said Fernandez.
The attorney for the parents describes the Donaldson’s as the “perfect family,” married for 30 years, religious and loyal to their son.
So loyal that they’re willing to go to jail.
The first time the Donaldson’s saw their son since his arrest was Friday afternoon in a brief, two minute video conference.
The couple was said to be so emotionally exhausted after the video conference, they had to be helped out of their chairs.
Their attorney told News Channel 8 that he is fully expecting paperwork from prosecutors on Wednesday to show contempt of court on the part of his clients.
A hearing is scheduled in court for 10 a.m. Thursday.
“They elected not to discuss any matters that they were asked about because they are not going to be witnesses against their son,” said Fernandez.
Meanwhile, the victims’ families are also expected in court soon. According to Angelique Dupree, the aunt of Benjamin Mitchell, the families are scheduled to attend a meeting with the State Attorney at 1 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss their thoughts on the death penalty.