Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Public safety

Couple that provided video in Seminole Heights killings wants a piece of the reward

TAMPA — It’s the Seminole Heights surveillance video seen around the world.

A hooded figure calmly walks down E Frierson Avenue, appearing to flip a phone in his hand, on the night of Oct. 9. Then, moments later, the same person is seen running in the opposite direction. Tampa police released the clips, eventually saying they believed it was the man responsible for the string of killings in the neighborhood.

The cameras that captured the snippet replayed on national news for weeks are attached to Patrick and Kelly Holladay’s bungalow in Seminole Heights. It would have been nice, they said Monday, to have shared in the $110,000 reward money after Howell Emanuel Donaldson III was arrested last month.

"I was not amused that we weren’t considered for anything," said Kelly Holladay, 50. "We put ourselves in jeopardy and helped police immensely. I hate to say these words but we might seek legal advice."

In the end, the half- dozen agencies, groups and individuals that contributed reward money handed their shares over to Delonda Walker, a manager at the Ybor City McDonald’s where Donaldson worked. On Nov. 28, police say, Donaldson handed Walker a paper McDonald’s bag and told her to hold it for him. She looked inside after he left, saw a .40-caliber handgun and gave it to a Tampa police officer who was in the restaurant.

It was the break in the case that investigators needed, allowing them to match the gun to the bullets that killed Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton. Police arrested Donaldson later that day and he now faces four counts of first-degree murder.

Most of the donors conferred with Tampa police before Chief Brian Dugan and Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced that Walker would receive the money.

"The decision was made to give it to the person whose actions led directly to the arrest of the suspect," said police spokesman Steve Hegarty.

But the Holladays argue that their video was about all police had to go on for several weeks.

Police say the snippets of video the Holladays turned over show Donaldson in the moments before and after he shot Mitchell as the 22-year-old waited for a bus on N 15th Street, less than a block east of the couple’s home.

That night, Kelly Holladay was sitting in the kitchen where a monitor displays feeds from the seven cameras on their property. Holladay uses an electric wheelchair, so the cameras allow her to see what’s happening on the property.

Suddenly, she saw a tall, slim figure running across the screen.

"I told Pat, you should see this guy, he was running like he was being chased," she recalled.

The couple didn’t hear the gunshots, but neighbor did. When police arrived, the couple waved over the officers, told them about the man and showed them the footage. Detectives came later and downloaded their video archive dating back about three weeks.

Four days later, the department released the first video from the Holladays of the man walking down Frierson, calling him a person of interest. A week after that, the department released video from the Holladays of the man running in the opposite direction.

Eventually, the reward ballooned to $110,000. That included $50,000 from the FBI; $20,000 from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; $10,000 from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; $5,000 from Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay; $15,000 from Rise Tampa; $10,000 from the David Straz Jr. Foundation; and $9,000 from local restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart.

By the third killing, the Holladays began to think they would probably receive a share of the reward once the suspect was caught, that their contribution would be considered a tip that led to the arrest. They also worried that the killer would find out who turned over the video and come for revenge.

"The only thing they kept showing was our video," said Kelly Holladay.

After Donaldson’s arrest, Kelly Holladay called Crime Stoppers and wrote a letter to Dugan to make their case for a reward. Dugan and Buckhorn announced Dec. 1 that Walker would get the money. Most, if not all, of the money has already been awarded to her.

"We felt like both Dugan and the mayor kind of downplayed the role we played in it," said Patrick Holladay, 74. "They said they got 5,000 tips, like ours was worth no more than the others."

Walker was the appropriate recipient for the $5,000 put up by Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay, said president Debbie Carter.

"They provided the video but the person responsible for the arrest was the manager at McDonald’s," Carter said.

Andrea Aprea, an FBI spokeswoman, said in an email that the reward was paid "according to the guidelines set forth, which was ‘providing information leading to the arrest of the unknown suspect(s) involved in the Seminole Heights homicide cases.’?" The ATF released a similar statement Monday.

The Holladays said the police officers and detectives thanked them for the video at the time but the couple hasn’t received an official thank-you.

That will come at a yet-to-be scheduled ceremony, when the police department will invite the Holladays and others who assisted with the investigation, Hegarty said. He noted that one of the Holladays’ neighbors also provided a video clip of the suspect.

"We are grateful and we do plan to formally thank them and others who helped in anyway they could," he said.

Said Kelly Holladay: "The other people who provided video, give them money too, if you want people to keep helping you."

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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