Bond heading for Seminole Heights serial killer suspect set for Tuesday

State attorneys to lay out case Tuesday

TAMPA, Fla. — The man police believe shot and killed four people in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa made his first court appearance on Thursday morning. 

Investigators say they have the gun and their guy, but they and the victims' families don't have the answer to one haunting question.

"The question that we're all going through is why? We don't, you know, he didn't live there. He had no ties to the place. He just killed people indiscriminately,” said Monica Hoffa's dad Kenny Hoffa. "We don't understand why he chose our daughter.”

Howell "Trai" Donaldson wore Orient Road green and was shackled before a Tampa judge when told he will be held without bond until a Tuesday 10:00 a.m. bond hearing.  

"Mr. Donaldson, you're charged with, 1, 2, 3, 4...four counts of murder in the first degree — premeditated,” said Judge Margaret R. Taylor.

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During his appearance, Donaldson had nothing to say about the charges or victims. Tampa PD say he's also hasn't spoken to them about his motive.  

"I just see another life ruined with his own consequences that he's going to have and for his family. And just thinking about that they're going through something as well,” said Yury Gutierrez, who is Hoffa's cousin by blood and sister in sentiment.

She also says her family is praying for Donaldson's family.

"Seems like you raise your child right and they make poor choices like that and as a mother, I put myself there and I just don't understand why,” she said.

Who is Howell Emanuel Donaldson III?

We're told a jury would have to indict Donaldson after the bond hearing for a trial to be set.

"If the case satisfies the legal requirements and if it’s consistent with what the victims’ families want, then we will seek the death penalty,” said the State's Attorney Andrew Warren.

Until then, 'Why?' is the question four families deserve the answer to as their healing process begins.    

"We want to understand that so maybe we can have complete peace but I don't think peace will ever come to all of us,” said Kenny Hoffa.

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