Monday, October 15, 2018
Public safety

51 days: A timeline of the Seminole Heights killings in Tampa

A timeline highlighting the major points over the 51 days it took police to find and arrest the man they say is responsible for the Seminole Heights killing:

Oct. 9: Officers find Benjamin Edward Mitchell lying near the bus stop at 15th Street and East Frierson Avenue about 9 a.m. with at least one gunshot wound, according to Tampa police. Mitchell is taken to a local hospital, where he later dies from his injuries.

He was only 22, a budding rapper and Hillsborough County Community college student. Investigators find no obvious motive as to why someone would want to take his life.

Oct. 11: A city of Tampa employee discovers the body of Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32. just before 9 a.m. She is shot, but her body is hidden behind knee-high grass on city land near the corner of East New Orleans Avenue and North 11th Street. She was probably killed two days earlier.

The IHOP employee had never made it to work the day before. Her boyfriend had begun to agonize over why she wasn’t answering her phone.

Police Chief Brian Dugan said even before forensics returned showing the casings found at both scenes came from the exact same Glock, investigators knew they came from the same kind of gun.

Oct. 13: Police emphasize to residents they should not walk alone as it becomes clear the two killings are connected.

Police presence in the neighborhood picks up.

Police release a grainy video of a person walking in the night with a hoodie. They call him a person of interest.

Oct. 19: Anthony Naiboa, a graduate of Middleton High School, gets off at the wrong bus stop after work and while walking north on 15th Street to another bus stop when he is shot.

Officers on patrol in the area hear the shots and rush to the area, but by then the shooter is gone. Naiboa dies at North 15th and Conover streets, about 100 yards from one of the other shootings.

Police have no leads or suspects.

Oct. 25: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn gives police searching for the killer who is terrorizing Seminole Heights one mission: "Bring his head to me, all right?" the mayor said. "Let’s go get it done."

The unusual charge is delivered at a Seminole Heights park where several dozen officers gather for roll call before their afternoon shift.

Oct. 26 With no leads, the community fears and grieves together. The police release a second set of surveillance video from the first killing.

It shows the hooded and slender man running from the area of the shooting. Investigators also focused on the man’s distinctive gait and the way he flips his cellphone his hand.

Oct. 31 Some Seminole Heights families choose not to take their children trick-or-treating in the normally festive neighborhood. Police continue to blanket the neighborhood.

Nov. 14: The fourth victim, 60-year-old Ronald Felton, is shot at Nebraska Avenue and Caracas Street before dawn outside.

He is near the food bank where he volunteered Tuesdays and Fridays for the past decade. Like the three other victims, slain during an 11-day period in October, Felton is shot outside.

Nov. 15: One day after Ronald Felton’s killing, Tampa Police release new surveillance video of the person wanted for questioning. Rewards for information leading to the shooter’s arrest climb to $100,000.

Nov. 28: Police begin to gather around an Ybor City McDonald’s in the late afternoon. Few details are released but police say it could be tied to the Seminole Heights killings.

At an 11 p.m. news conference Chief Dugan and Mayor Buckhorn announce police will arrest 24-year-old Howell Emanuel Donaldson III on four counts of first-degree murder in connection with the Seminole Heights slayings.

Nov. 29 Donaldson is booked into Hillsborough County jail as details emerge of what evidence ties the Tampa man to the murders. A police report lists the same weapon, the same gun Donaldson asked a coworker at McDonald’s to hold for him, was used in each killing.

Police also say cellphone data puts him in the area of each killing. A hoodie that could be the one seen in the three released videos is found in his car.

Buckhorn tells reporters at a news conference he thinks, if found guilty, Donaldson should face the death penalty.

Dugan says the nightmare is finally over.

Compiled by Times Staff Writer Sara DiNatale. Contact at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.

MORE ON SEMINOLE HEIGHTS

BACKSTORY: Seminole Heights slayings: Man, 24, faces four counts of murder

LIVE BRIEFING: Everything we know about the arrest in the Seminole Heights killings

RELATED: Phone data could be ‘powerful evidence’ against Seminole Heights suspect

RELATED: Seven things you need to know about Howell Emanuel Donaldson III

RELATED: Sister of Seminole Heights murder victim now dealing with her husband’s death

RELATED: Infamous killers of Tampa Bay, a region familiar with horror

 
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