Tampa killings: Prosecutors to seek death penalty for suspect Howell Donaldson

The suspect in a series of fatal shootings in Tampa, Florida is facing the death penalty for his “unconscionable" crimes, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said that after evaluating the evidence and meeting with each of the victims’ families, “This office will seek sentence of death against Howell Donaldson III.”

The 24-year-old suspect has been indicted on four counts of first-degree murder in connection with four fatal shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in October and November.

Warren said the case, in which Donaldson allegedly “murdered four innocent victims in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner” qualified for the ultimate sentence.

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Series of fatal shootings in Tampa -- Howell Donaldson III
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Series of fatal shootings in Tampa -- Howell Donaldson III

Three people were found murdered in less than two weeks in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Florida.

(Photo via Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives)

Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, facing murder charges for a string of deadly shootings in Tampa, is seen in this handout photo received November 29, 2017. Tampa Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Ryan Reynolds, 37, and a resident of the Tampa neighborhood of South Seminole Heights, talks on November 15, 2017 about the recent killings of four people in his neighborhood by gunshot over the last month. Police believe the four killings, none of which involved robbery or another obvious motive, may be related. With the reward for information leading to an arrest at $91,000, police urged the community to help. / AFP PHOTO / Les Neuhaus (Photo credit should read LES NEUHAUS/AFP/Getty Images)
A sign warning burglars to beware (L) is seen beside a church notice late November 15, 2017 in Tampa, Florida, with fears mounting over a possible serial killer after four unsolved murders, with police upping a reward for any clues. Before dawn on November 14, 2017, Ronald Felton, 60, became the fourth murder victim by gunshot while on his way to feed homeless people at the church within a months time. Tampa Police believe the killings are connected. / AFP PHOTO / Les Neuhaus (Photo credit should read LES NEUHAUS/AFP/Getty Images)
A memorial wreath rests late November 15, 2017 along the Tampa street where Ronald Felton, 60, was gunned down just a few feet away in the early morning hours the previous day, making him the fourth murder victim within a seven-block area in a months time. Police believe the four killings, none of which involved robbery or another obvious motive, may be related. With the reward for information leading to an arrest at $91,000, police urged the community to help. / AFP PHOTO / Les Neuhaus (Photo credit should read LES NEUHAUS/AFP/Getty Images)

Benjamin Edward Mitchell

(Photo via Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives)

Monica Caridad Hoffa

(Photo via Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives)

Anthony Naiboa

(Photo via Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives)

Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, facing murder charges for a string of deadly shootings in Tampa, is seen in this handout photo received November 29, 2017.

(Tampa Police Department/Handout via REUTERS)

WATCH VID: https://t.co/XwauE5YCHG We believe this person may have ties to the Seminole Heights area. Contact… https://t.co/NjPn3wXu8b
WHO IS THIS? @TampaPD wants to find out if this person has anything to do with 3 murders in Seminole Heights:… https://t.co/pkDI63N8SF
DEVELOPING - 3 bodies found in #SeminoleHeights within 1 mile of each other in 10 days time - are the cases linked?… https://t.co/K3DAwLiXBw
#BREAKING Just a couple blocks from the memorial of a man shot in #SeminoleHeights, another person found randomly s… https://t.co/t4rVqTYAhF
Seminole Heights neighbors chanting "our streets" after three murders that appear to be random. https://t.co/HeDDe1bbiP
Another suspicious death in Tampa's Seminole Heights https://t.co/0K9uxM5wA9
Tampa Police Dept. releases new video of person of interest in the killings of three people. https://t.co/qENafTaNOg https://t.co/fqXUDmHIUp
We have added over 1000 streetlights in Seminole Heights. You've seen our men out there. We're not stopping until we catch this guy.
.@CityofTampa crews are working around the clock in Southeast Seminole Heights to clear vacant lots/alleys to reduc… https://t.co/LF6ZysiLdn
Amid hunt for possible serial killer, Tampa Police release more video of person of interest. @KerryNBC reports now… https://t.co/Mjp9ltr1Gs
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“A prosecutor’s pursuit of justice should be tempered by mercy, but some crimes are so unconscionable, so hard to fathom that we must leave mercy to a higher power and focus on achieving justice for victims and their families,” he said during a news conference.

“A case like this touches thousands of lives,” he said, adding that while their decision cannot bring back the victims, “we will seek justice for their deaths.”

Related: Parents of Tampa shooting suspect Howell Donaldson ordered to talk

Donaldson was arrested in November, after a co-worker at McDonald's found a gun he had left at the fast-food chain and called police. That loaded weapon, a .40 caliber Glock, linked him to the killings, authorities have said.

On Oct. 9, 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell was shot while he was waiting for a bus. On Oct. 13, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa was found dead in a vacant lot. On Oct. 19, 20-year-old Anthony Naiboa was killed while he was walking. On Nov. 14, the body of 60-year-old Ronald Felton was found near the scene of a memorial honoring the first three victims.

Investigators have not yet given a motive for the ambush killings.

Kenny Hoffa, Monica Hoffa's father, told NBC News that he believed prosecutors made the right decision.

“That young man decided he was going to murder my daughter and three other people and he was basically doing it for sport,” he said Tuesday. “He hunts people down and kills them — and he deserves to die. It’s not my job to decide if someone dies, that’s up to the court and God. But if that’s the decision they made, I believe that’s the right decision.”

Related: Tampa killings: Suspect Howell Donaldson to be charged with murder

James Felton, brother of Ronald Felton, said that while he accepted the decision, he wanted Donaldson to live with the ramifications of what he is accused of doing.

“I want him to live so he can think about what he’s done,” he said. “I want him to suffer because he’s young.”

But, he said, he’s willing to accept the state attorney’s decision.

“I can’t judge and say 'OK, give him the death' — but I have to accept the law,” he said.

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