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Seminole Heights killings: Seven things you need to know about Howell Emanuel Donaldson III

Accused Seminole Heights killer Howell Emanuel Donaldson III is booked into the Hillsborough County Jail onh Nov. 28, 2017. He faces four counts of first-degree murder. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
Published Nov. 29, 2017

Late Tuesday night Tampa police announced the end of 51-day search: Police had arrested the man investigators believe is responsible for the four slayings in Seminole Heights.

Howell Emanuel Donaldson, III, a 24-year-old Tampa man, faces four counts of murder for the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, 22; Monica Hoffa, 32; Anthony Naiboa, 20; and Ronald Felton, 60.

Here are seven things you need to know about him.

1. Donaldson, who went by the name Trai, worked at a McDonald's in Tampa.

On Tuesday, police said he asked a coworker to hold onto his Glock while he went to cash a check. The coworker got police involved and it's that gun, among other evidence, police say ties the 24-year-old to all four killings. He also told that coworker he planned to leave the state.

2. He bought the gun on Oct. 3 at a gun shop called Shooter's World on E Fletcher Avenue, according to a police report.

Receipts show he picked it up after the mandatory waiting period four days later, along with a 20-round box of .40 caliber ammunition. Police say shell casings found at the first three murder scenes match the gun Donaldson admitted to purchasing.

3. He was born in North Carolina, according to the arrest report. He graduated from Alonso High School in 2011 after beginning there mid-way through his junior year, according to the district. He also was at Tampa Catholic High School for some amount of time, where he played basketball.

4. He did not live in Seminole Heights, the neighborhood of all four killings.

Police suspected the killer could live in the neighborhood, and that's why he was able to so quickly disappear after each killing.

Donaldson's family lives in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood. He told police he "was unfamiliar with the area identified as the Seminole Heights neighborhood, and he did not have any association with anyone in the area," according to a police report.

5. Donaldson attended St. Johns University in New York beginning the fall of 2011 and graduated in January of 2017, according to a school spokesman.

He was on the basketball team as a walk-on in 2011-12, but never played a game.

6. The gun is not the only thing tying him to the four killings.

Investigators say cellphone data shows he was in Southeast Seminole Heights on the dates and times of the first three murders. Other phone records show him "geographically associated" with the areas of all four murders.

They also found blood on a hoodie that matched what the man seen in surveillance footage was wearing after the killings.

7. He was booked into Hillsborough County jail this morning.


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

TIMELINE: Key events leading to the arrest in the Seminole Heights slayings

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

RELATED: 'I just hope they find that killer': Family, friends mourn Seminole Heights murder victim

RELATED: Mounted police patrol Seminole Heights after killings

RELATED: On the night shift in Seminole Heights, Tampa police keep watch for a killer

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

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.


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