Tampa Police Department arrests suspect for Seminole Heights murders
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People in the Seminole Heights area and students at Hillsborough High School sighed in relief as news circulated of an arrest in a string of killings that has terrorized the community for nearly two months. Surrounding the Hillsborough area, four unconnected people were shot and killed possibly by the same person causing unrest and desperation among its citizens.
On Tuesday afternoon, after receiving a tip that the suspect would be at the Ybor City McDonald’s, the Tampa Police Department made its move. After nearly a two-month search, it seemed as if peace might be achievable for Seminole Heights residents.
Many students and families in this area tried to remain calm during the search for the killer because many felt panic is exactly what the suspect wanted.
“My parents wouldn’t let the murders affect me,” said junior Catherine Discenza. “It was on the other side of the highway for me, so I didn’t notice a significantly increased police presence directly around the school.”
Caught after handing a bag with a gun in it over to a coworker, the suspect Howell Donaldson III admitted the weapon belonged to him but would not reveal the reasoning behind his actions according to police.
Donaldson was a former basketball player at Alonso High School. After graduating, Donaldson traveled to New York to attend St. John’s University where he played for their Division I basketball team. Describe as an easy, outgoing young man, Donaldson confuses his friends and peers as to why he has killed four people.
Despite the relief felt by the community, the investigation is still ongoing. Police Chief Brian Dugan expresses his concern to ensure that the correct person was arrested and that the justice he deserves is well served.
“I think it makes everyone feel a little better,” Principal Gary Brady said. “We’re different than a lot of schools because our students live so close. If it was still football season, and we had games every Friday night, I don’t know what we would have done.”
Four people were killed in a 51-day span: Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton. Naiboa was a former Hillsborough High School student. Each of these victims’ families still grieve their loss but are thankful to the Police Department in their around the clock work in solving this murder mystery.
Despite the suspect being in custody, citizens in the Seminole Heights community are still on high alert. Since having a sporadic killer is unknown territory to many residents, people are still being cautious and taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their families and friends.
“We sent a parent link to remind people that even though we’ve caught the person, students should not walk at night and parents should still pick up their children from school,” Brady said. “Our concern was any night event.”
Students are encouraged to walk in groups home and stay indoors when it becomes dark. Parents are ensuring they only go out when necessary and that all doors remain locked.