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Parents of accused Seminole Heights killer to go before a judge for refusing to answer questions

Posted at 5:56 PM, Dec 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-07 16:27:02-05

TAMPA, Fla. — State Attorney Andrew Warren held a press conference Wednesday answering questions after ABC Action News first reported that the parents of the suspected Seminole heights killer refused to answer questions about their son despite a court subpoena.

"We are taking every investigative avenue and every investigative tool at our disposal to build the strongest case possible," said Warren. "I am a father so I recognize and sympathize the unenviable situation that they are in but we have an ethical obligation to exhaust every available avenue."

While Warren calls this a necessary move, Ralph Fernandez, who represents Howell Donaldson III’s parents said it's rare and puts family values on trial.

"We are traveling unchartered territory in this case. This is not something that happens but every 10-20 years," said Fernandez.

On Tuesday, Howell Donaldson Junior and his wife walked into the Tampa courthouse holding hands and holding strong to their decision not to speak. They expect to do the same on Thursday before the judge.

According to attorneys, contempt can land people in jail.

"I do not think it is going to come to that. We are not at that point yet," said Warren.

It is important to note nothing the parents say in an investigative subpoena can be used against the parents themselves. But the serious charges against their son is the reason they plan to stay silent.


"If there is a legal basis to seek the death penalty and it is consistent with the wishes of the victims' families we intend to seek the death penalty," said Warren.

Fernandez said, "They are seeking information to kill their son and nothing good can come out of this."

If the parents do say anything it will be a statement, in part saying, "our lives were perfect until November the 28." That is the day their son was arrested for the four murders that occurred within 51 days in Seminole Heights.

The hearing is expected to take place on Thursday at 10:00 a.m.