Accused Seminole Heights killer was arrested one year ago today

Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, 24, faces four counts of first-degree murder in the Seminole Heights slayings that terrorized the Tampa neighborhood last year. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, 24, faces four counts of first-degree murder in the Seminole Heights slayings that terrorized the Tampa neighborhood last year. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Nov. 28, 2018

One year ago today, a nearly two-month reign of terror in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood -- an otherwise hip and happy bastion of trendy eateries, cozy Craftsman bungalows and old Florida roots -- came to an end.

Someone had been on the loose with a murderous thirst. Seemingly random killings became linked by the same .40 caliber shell casings found at the scene of each homicide. Shell casings police said match a gun found in a bag by an Ybor City McDonald's manager on Nov. 18, 2017. A gun that belongs to her then-employee Howell Donaldson III, the man who, for the last year, has been in jail accused of being the Seminole Heights killer.

He faces four charges of murder in the first degree for allegedly killing Benjamin Mitchell, 22; Monica Hoffa, 32; Anthony Naiboa, 20; and Ronald Felton, 60, between Oct. 9 and Nov. 14.

The slayings captured the attention of the nation and were a cause for concern and frustration throughout Tampa. Before the arrest, Mayor Bob Buckhorn told police to "bring his head to me" and after, he called for the death penalty, a decision that will be left to State Attorney Andrew Warren.

Since the arrest, interviews and investigations revealed a man seemingly spiraling out of control, losing a hold on life, falling down. His public defenders in April challenged his competency to stand trial because of suspected mental illness. In late July, he was determined competent to stand trial.

The next disposition hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2019. Legal experts previously told the Tampa Bay Times it could take up to three years for the legal saga to end.

The victims:

Benjamin Edward Mitchell — Mitchell was heading to his girlfriend's house around 9 p.m. Oct. 9, 2017. He was waiting for a bus near 15th Street and E. Frierson Avenue when he was shot and killed.

Monica Caridad Hoffa — Four days and barely half of a mile from Mitchell's slaying, on Oct. 13, Hoffa's body was found by a Tampa landscaping crew along the 1000 block of E. New Orleans Avenue. Police believe she was shot and killed a day or two before while walking to a friend's house

Anthony Naiboa — Naiboa, a Bronx native who was diagnosed with autism and ADHD, took the wrong bus home on the evening of Oct. 19. He was shot and killed sometime around 8 p.m. near 15th Street and Wilder Avenue.

Ronald Felton — The shootings stopped for nearly a month as fear and frustration heightened. Then, on Nov. 14, Fenton was crossing N. Nebraska Avenue near E. Caracas Street when he was shot from behind. He was on his way to volunteer at the New Seasons Apostolic Ministries food bank, where he'd spent 10 years helping to feed families in need.

More on the Seminole Heights killings:

New burden for families of Seminole Heights murder victims: Weighing in on death penalty

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Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at Follow @danuscripts.