TAMPA, Fla. – The suspected serial killer accused of murdering four people in the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa between early October and mid-November is being held without bond.
A judge ordered Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, 24, to remain in the Hillsborough County Jail until his next pre-trial court appearance, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5.
Donaldson's defense and the state's attorney office are expected to argue whether he deserves to be released on bond. He was shackled and wore an anti-suicide smock while held by deputies at the Hillsborough County Courthouse via video from the Orient Road Jail.
Donaldson is arrested on four counts of felony first-degree murder in the killings of Benjamin Edward Mitchell on Oct. 9, Monica Hoffa on Oct. 11, Anthony Naiboa on Oct. 19 and Ronald Felton on Nov. 14 in the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood.
Family members of Hoffa showed up to the court proceedings Thursday morning and said they will continue to do so until justice is served.
"We will be back," said Yuri Gutierrez, Hoffa's cousin. "This is a start to a process that will help us to get through this and bring justice to her and for the other victims."
Hoffa's father said his family is relying on a higher power to help them through this process.
"We've got a real strong faith in God. He's going to carry us through this," Kenny Hoffa said. "We're going to pray for his family that they get carried through this."
If convicted, Donaldson could face the death penalty.
Tampa police arrested Donaldson on Tuesday at a Ybor City McDonald’s after he gave a handgun in a bag to a restaurant employee.
State prosecutors ask that Donaldson is held in jail without bond for the safety of the community.
When asked whether Donaldson deserves the death penalty if convicted, Florida State Attorney Andrew Warren said he will examine whether there is a legal basis to do so. He also wants to see if that's something
"When I took office, I put in place a process to thoroughly and diligently evaluate all the available evidence before making a decision about whether to seek the death penalty," Warren said. "In this case, like every other case ... will go through that process to make sure I'm faithfully, faithfully executing my duty to follow the law."
Tampa police have an overwhelming amount of evidence against Donaldson, including ballistics that connect the gun recovered on Tuesday to the weapon used in all four murders.
Court records show Donaldson has requested a public defender for representation in the case.
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