TAMPA, Fla. -- A judge on Friday ordered search warrants and other documents related to the serial killings in Seminole Heights to be sealed until discovery or further notice.
The State Attorney’s Office filed the motion with Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court in Hillsborough County on Thursday, citing safety and assurance of fair proceedings as reasons the records should be sealed.
“The search warrant and related documents contain sensitive and/or confidential information that is part of an ongoing investigation,” the petition reads.
“The continued confidentiality until release of discovery to the defense is required to
- Prevent a serious and imminent threat to the fair, impartial and orderly administration of justice; or
- Protect a compelling governmental interest; or
- Avoid substantial injury to an innocent third party.”
Tampa Police Department spokesperson Steve Hegarty said while search warrants aren’t always sealed, in a high-profile case, it can be necessary.
Howell Donaldson III was charged with four counts of first degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton. The four murders happened over a span of five weeks in the Southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa.
Police say the same Glock .40 caliber handgun was used to kill the victims. That weapon, according to police, was recovered after Donaldson gave a McDonald’s worker in Ybor City a bag with the weapon. That worker called police, ending the 51-day manhunt for the suspected serial killer.
The McDonald’s worker who tipped police will receive a $110,000 cash reward.
A judge on Thursday ordered that Donaldson will be held without bond.