Parents of murder suspect appear in court

Accused murderer's parents face contempt charges

Parents of accused Seminole Heights killer to face judge over refusal of testimony

Those questions relate to Donaldson III's mental health, whether his parents knew he owned a gun and about their son's history, among others.

A Judge has ordered the parents of Howell Donaldson III, suspected Seminole Heights killer, to appear in court on January 5, 2018 to show cause as to why they should not be held in civil contempt of court after they have refused to answer questions about their son. Howell Donaldson Jr. could face contempt charges.

Fernandez says he feels he's protecting the Donaldsons from having to go through more emotional pain by having to speak and he feels they're justified in not wanting to say anything that could help the state sentence their son to death.

"We are going to use every avenue at our disposal to obtain the most available evidence", said Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren. If they continue to refuse, they could face penalties, including a fine or possible jail time. Florida state law does not allow for parent-child privilege.

The parents of the 24-year-old man suspected in a string of fatal shootings in a Florida neighborhood will go before a judge after they refused to answer investigator's questions about their son. "That's why this is a hard cause because of the fact that from the inception that's why the Donaldson's have been devastated".

Prior to Thursday's hearing, Fernandez told ABC News that the Donaldsons were "fully advised" on their actions and are "ready to take the effect".

Answers to those questions potentially could be used to determine whether Donaldson III murdered four people this fall in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood.

In an earlier interview with 10News, he said: "If you are a parent asked to testify against your child, what would you do?"

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The first three victims were killed within 11 days in October.

Anthony Naiboa, Monica Hoffa, Benjamin Mitchell and Ronald Felton were shot and killed in separate incidents as they walked alone at night. He was detained after a co-worker told police that Donaldson handed her a bag with a gun inside and told her to watch it for him.

Refusing to testify could put the Donaldsons in jail for several months. A pretrial detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday was canceled because the case has not yet been assigned to a division. That court appearance is scheduled for December 12.

Any type of exchange won't take place in open court though.

"We're not only trying to build a case against the defendant, we're trying to ask the broader question of why - a question that the victims' families and the community deserves to have answered", Warren, the state attorney, said Wednesday".

Fernandez explained that the Donaldsons have been devastated since their sons arrest.

"I don't think that there is a greater treasure than the family", he said. "And we question why".

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