While neighbors in Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood are resting a little easier now that an arrest has been made in the hunt for a suspected serial killer, there's one group of people committed to making sure residents still feel safe.
The Tampa Chapter of the Guardian Angels has stayed committed to Seminole Heights since the murders began. Working in shifts to patrol two to three times a day, collectively the neighborhood watchdog group has logged more than 500 miles in Southeast Seminole Heights alone.
“We’re just here to let citizens know someone else is out watching,” said Jim Vanmatre, assistant chapter leader.
But Wednesday night was different for the volunteers. Less than 24 hours after the arrest of Howell Donaldson III, Andy Nash said they’re still a bit guarded.
“There’s still that sixth sense,” said Nash. “Part of patrolling, you put all of your heart and soul into it, and you take it home with you,” he said.
On their walk Wednesday night, they stopped by each of the memorials of the four victims, lighting candles and saying a prayer. Benjamin Edward Mitchell was killed on Oct. 9, Monica Caridad Hoffa on Oct. 11, Anthony Naiboa on Oct. 19 and Ronald Felton on Nov. 14.
"It touches you in every aspect,” Nash said.
They don’t have guns or a badge. The Guardian Angels are all volunteers with day jobs.
“We have a lot of former military, some former law enforcement. We have regular citizens. We have business owners, lawyers, all walks of life,” Vanmatre said.
The community is thanking them.
“It’s nice to know there are people out there who actually care,” said Tabitha Daniels.
Monique Williams says the response is rewarding. “(It) makes me feel good that I can do for someone without expecting anything in return.”
It’s hand-in-hand with their motto; dare to care, providing an extra element of safety leaving a big impact in this community.
“I can’t give it up. It’s in my blood.” Vanmatre said.
As part of their commitment to Seminole Heights, the Guardian Angels will continue patrols two to three days a week.