Florida Man Pleads Guilty to 2017 Killing Rampage, Sentenced to Life Imprisonment Without Parole
Florida man pleads guilty to killing four people randomly during a 2017 killing spree. Howell Donaldson III entered the guilty pleas to four counts of first-degree murder and received four consecutive life sentences without parole.
According to court records, the plea deal means Donaldson will avoid the death penalty. Prosecutors have confirmed that the judge accepted the surprise plea deal.
Donaldson, who is 30 years old, admitted to killing Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa, and Ronald Felton in the Seminole Heights neighborhood between October 9 and November 14, 2017.
Each victim was shot with the same type of ammunition while going about their daily activities, such as waiting at a bus stop or crossing the street.
The case remained unsolved until Donaldson asked the manager of a McDonald’s restaurant where he worked to hold a plastic bag with something heavy in it while he ran an errand.
However, instead of having the bag, the manager showed it to a Tampa police officer in the restaurant. The bag contained a .40-caliber Glock handgun, which was later matched to the slayings.
The guilty plea came during a hearing set for defense motions seeking to throw out evidence obtained from the McDonald’s encounter. The trial was scheduled to begin in August, but family members and investigators attended the hearing.
Kenny Hoffa, the father of Monica Hoffa, one of the victims, said in a news release that it is “a small comfort” to know that Donaldson will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
His daughter, a 32-year-old waitress, was killed while walking home to meet a friend. State Attorney Suzy Lopez said the family members agreed with Donaldson’s guilty plea.
Interim Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said the investigation was one of the most difficult in recent memory.
“This coward committed unspeakable acts and wreaked havoc on our community for weeks on end,” said Lopez in a news release. “He will now be locked away in a prison cell for the rest of his life where he will make no more headlines.”
Donaldson will now spend the rest of his life in prison, reflecting on his heinous crimes. However, the guilty plea has come as a relief to the families of the victims, who can now have closure and peace of mind.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Police Department has been applauded for their tireless efforts to find the killer and restore peace to the Seminole Heights community.
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