The parents of the 24-year-old man accused of killing four people over a 51-day period of terror in Tampa say they will not testify against him even if it means they will face criminal charges.
Howell “Trai” Donaldson, III, is accused of killing four people in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa. His parents were subpoenaed by prosecutors to give information about their son’s background, but are only agreeing to divulge basic information, their lawyer said, according to Fox 13.
Ralph Fernandez said the couple could receive a notice of contempt of court as early as Wednesday morning for refusing to provide more information about their son. He said a court hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday.
He said bringing in the family into the investigation is “significant overkill.”
“The assets of law enforcement are monster,” Fernandez said. “The assets of a couple and their son are limited, regardless of what the person is charged with. To bring a family in and do that, when you have everything else at your disposal, to everyone, that seems like significant overkill.”
By refusing to testify against their son, the Donaldsons could face a fine or even jail time.
“They are willing to go to jail not to testify against their son,” Fernandez said. “They believe in America. That is a core value of the religious principled, patriotic segment of the population. We will not testify against their son. This goes back to the early days of the Bible.”
Prosecutors are seeking information about the younger Donaldson that could include any mental health information or what their son was like leading up to the killings.
Donaldson was caught last month at a McDonald’s in Ybor City after police received a tip that he had brought a loaded gun to his job at the restaurant and asked a co-worker to hold it. An employee told the manager, who alerted a police officer who happened to be at a table at the restaurant.
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said last week that the gun, a .40-caliber Glock, was the missing evidence authorities needed to connect the killings to the images previously released from surveillance video of the suspect leaving the area.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and ATF analyzed the fired cartridge casings in all four murder scenes, and determined the casings were fired from the same firearm: a Glock .40-caliber handgun, according to the affidavit.
Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.