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The Seminole Heights serial killer is an alleged serial killer who is believed to have murdered four people in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Florida, in October and November 2017. All four victims were shot dead seemingly at random.

Seminole Heights serial killer
Other namesTampa Bay Serial Killer
Details
Victims4
Span of crimes
October 9, 2017–November 14, 2017
CountryUnited States
State(s)Florida
Date apprehended
Suspect apprehended November 28, 2017

On November 28, 2017, police arrested Howell Emanuel Donaldson III after he handed a pistol in a bag to his manager, who alerted police. Subsequent investigation revealed that the pistol may have fired the bullets used in the killings and that Donaldson's cell phone had been in the vicinity of the killings at the relevant times, while a search of Donaldson's vehicle found clothing similar to that seen in surveillance footage of the killing. On that basis, police charged Donaldson with four counts of murder. Donaldson stated that the pistol belonged to him but did not state that he had committed the killings. Donaldson was indicted on the charges on December 7, 2017.[1] He pleaded not guilty to all charges five days later.[2] On January 23, 2018, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced that the state would seek the death penalty against Donaldson.[3]

VictimsEdit

Benjamin Edward MitchellEdit

A man was shot and killed at about 9:00 p.m. on October 9, 2017, as he was waiting at a bus stop near N 15th Street and E Frierson Avenue in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. The victim was identified as Benjamin Edward Mitchell, a 22-year-old African American man. He is the first known victim of the unidentified killer.[4] Mitchell had left his home about a block away and was on his way to see his girlfriend.[5]

Monica Caridad HoffaEdit

On the morning of October 13, a city landscape crew was about to mow an overgrown field in the 1000 block of E New Orleans Avenue when they stumbled upon a woman's body. The victim, later identified as Monica Caridad Hoffa, a 32-year-old white female, was shot dead while walking to a friend's home.[5] The shooting is believed to have happened on the evening of October 11 or some time on October 12. Police said there was no clear connection between Hoffa and Mitchell, the first victim.[4] Her body was found a half mile from where Mitchell was killed.

Anthony NaiboaEdit

A 20-year-old Hispanic man was shot dead at about 7:57 p.m. on October 19, on 15th Street near Wilder Avenue. [6] Anthony Naiboa, who was diagnosed with autism and ADHD, ended up in the area after taking the wrong bus home from work.[7] He was walking toward a Route 9 stop when he was shot in the head and killed on the sidewalk.[5] He was the eldest of five siblings and child of Carmen Rodriguez and Casimar Naiboa. He was born in the Bronx, New York, but moved to Florida when he was nine years old to pursue a better education. He graduated Middleton High School in 2016 with a regular diploma despite his disabilities and has been described as a "symbol of determination."

Ronald FeltonEdit

At about 4:50 a.m. on November 14, a 60-year-old man was crossing N. Nebraska Avenue just north of E. Caracas Street when the suspect came up behind him and fatally shot him.[8] The victim, identified as Ronald Felton, was walking to the New Seasons Apostolic Ministries to meet the pastor to get ready to distribute food to families in need. He had been a volunteer at the food bank for more than a decade.[9]

Community responseEdit

On October 13, police deduced that the murder of Mitchell and Hoffa were connected based on ballistic evidence showing bullets from both victims came from the same Glock handgun. They increased patrols in the area and issued a statement urging people to not walk alone at night. Except for a grainy security cam video of a man in a hoodie, Tampa police had very few leads, and no suspects.[10] Dozens of people from the Tampa Bay area came together to mourn the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa, and Ronald Felton on separate occasions, as well.

On Halloween Day, 2017, over 50 police officers were stationed in the Seminole Heights area, as well as Tampa's Interim Police Chief (now full fledged Chief of Police) Brian Dugan and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, to ensure a safe night of trick-or-treating for the community's youth. Officers from FHP, Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office and Tampa Officers were stationed throughout the community in cars and on horseback.

A $110,000 reward was put forward for information leading to the person(s) responsible for the murders. Portions were contributed by local law enforcement, FBI, CrimeStoppers, Tampa restaurateur Richard Gonzmart, and community fundraisers.

InvestigationEdit

Surveillance video from the murders of Mitchell and Felton showed the suspect wearing a hoodie that was apparently light-colored, though detectives said the colors are misleading as dark colors often appear as light colors in infrared video. Furthermore, after Felton's murder, witnesses told police that the suspect was wearing all-dark clothing.[11] At least one witness described the suspect as a black male with a light complexion and a thin build, estimated to be about 6 to 6 feet 2 inches tall.[8]

The Tampa Police Department arrested a suspect, Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, on November 28, 2017, at a McDonald's fast food restaurant in Ybor City. Donaldson, who worked at the restaurant, told Delonda Walker, his manager, that he was going to an Amscot location and would leave town after securing a cash advance, then handed her a gun wrapped in a paper salad bag. Walker notified a police officer who was coincidentally in the restaurant's parking lot. The officer called for backup, and police were waiting to arrest Donaldson by the time he returned.[12][13][14]

Donaldson consented to a search of his vehicle, where Tampa police found clothes, stained with what appeared to be blood and fitting the description derived from security footage and eyewitness accounts. They also discovered that his cell phone location data aligned with the date, time, and location of that provided in the security footage. Tampa police claim that ballistics tests show that Donaldson's Glock was used to commit all four killings, and that shell casings matching the weapon were found at the scenes of the crimes.[13][15] A trial is scheduled to begin on August 20, 2020.[16]

Delonda Walker was given the $110,000 reward for providing information leading to the arrest of the alleged serial killer.[17]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Suspected Tampa serial killer Howell Donaldson III indicted in Seminole Heights murders, prosecutors say ABC News, December 7, 2017
  2. ^ Alleged Tampa serial killer pleads not guilty from jail ABC News, December 12, 2017
  3. ^ Chambers, Mary Stringini, Carson (2018-01-23). "Seminole Heights Killings: State will seek death penalty against Howell Donaldson III". WFTS. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  4. ^ a b "Tampa police believe two recent homicides are linked". Tampa Police Department. 26 October 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "In Tampa's Seminole Heights, 3 Unlinked Victims of a Mysterious Killer". New York Times. 27 October 2017.
  6. ^ TampaPD. "If you're reading this and have info about the #SeminoleHeights murders we're pleading with you to contact @crimestopperstbpic.twitter.com/R8OTeHPl0D". Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Funeral held for Seminole Heights murder victim Anthony Naiboa". WFLA-TV. 28 October 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Tampa police investigate homicide". Tampa Police Department. 14 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Seminole Heights Shooting Victim: Ronald Felton was church volunteer, helped needy families". WFTS-TV. 14 November 2017.
  10. ^ "51 days: A timeline of the Seminole Heights killings in Tampa". Tampa Bay Times. January 23, 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Tampa Police release additional video in Seminole Heights homicides". Tampa Police Department. 15 November 2017.
  12. ^ Hughes, Ryan (11 June 2018). "McDonald's manager describes accused Seminole Heights killer's behavior before arrest". Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Tampa killings suspect faces 4 counts of murder". CNN. November 29, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  14. ^ "'Justice Will be Served': Tampa Police Make Arrest in Serial Killer Case". NBC Miami. November 28, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  15. ^ Sullivan, Dan (4 April 2019). "VIDEO: Seminole Heights murder suspect says he's miserable in jail". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  16. ^ Bergin, Mark (13 August 2019). "Accused Seminole Heights serial killer Howell Donaldson III's trial set for August 2020". Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  17. ^ Altman, Howard (1 December 2017). "McDonald's worker to get all $110,000 in Seminole Heights reward money". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 22 August 2019.

External linksEdit