Times Staff Writers
TAMPA — The McDonald’s worker who turned in a gun that led to the arrest of Howell Emanuel Donaldson III in the Seminole Heights serial killings will receive "every penny" of the $110,000 reward, Tampa’s police chief said Friday.
It will take time, Chief Brian Dugan said, but Delonda Walker will be rewarded for her efforts.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn said she does not want attention and did not tip off police for the money.
"We would not be here today with this killer in custody if it weren’t for the courage of one individual who just happened to be working at a local McDonald’s," Buckhorn said.
He read a statement from Walker, who said she wanted to do the right thing.
"Receiving a reward never entered my mind," she said. "Looking back, I’m grateful to know I was assisting law enforcement."
Police said Donaldson, 24, gave his co-worker a food bag Tuesday containing a .40-caliber Glock before leaving to visit an Amscot. When Walker realized what was inside, she told a police officer who happened to be in the restaurant.
Donaldson faces four counts of murder in the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, 22; Monica Hoffa, 32; Anthony Naiboa, 20; and Ronald Felton, 60.
Hoffa’s relatives attended the news conference and stood with the mayor and police chief.
Yury Gutierrez, Hoffa’s cousin, thanked police, the Seminole Heights community and Walker.
"Our words cannot express the gratitude we have for her," Gutierrez said. "She’s a peaceful person. You just feel the humbleness from her."
The search for Monica’s killer was difficult on the family, especially during Thanksgiving.
"Monica sat with us at the table every year, and she sat next to me every year," Yury Gutierrez said as tears started to form in her eyes and her voice started to become weak. "It’s been hard. With Christmas, it’s not going to be the same, but this will help us get through it."
Hoffa’s mother, Olga Lavandeira, communicated through sign language that she was happy Walker stepped forward.
"Now Monica can rest in piece," Lavandeira communicated.
On Thursday afternoon, Hoffa’s father, Kenny, went to the McDonald’s to thank Walker in person.
Later that evening, Casimar Naiboa, father of victim Anthony Naiboa, said he and his family finally got a chance to meet Walker.
"We hugged her and told her she is our hero," Naiboa said.
Family members wore T-shirts with Anthony’s picture.
When Naiboa and his family arrived at the McDonald’s to thank Walker, she wasn’t there. But her co-workers recognized the family and contacted Walker, who showed up about a half-hour later.
Other workers, whose names he did not get, said they thought that Donaldson could be the man seen in the videos released by police, but were unsure.
"They told me they thought they might be thinking too much," said Naiboa.
Walker, he said, described Donaldson as "weird.
"She told us he never talked to anyone but her," said Naiboa.
At first, Walker didn’t know the extent of what she had done, said Naiboa.
She didn’t realize until several hours later, when media began to show up, that the man with the gun was thought to be connected to the Seminole Heights killings.
Contact Jonathan Capriel at [email protected] Follow @jonathancapriel.