TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a 24-year-old man suspected of randomly killing four people and terrorizing a Florida neighborhood for several months.
Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced the decision during a Tuesday morning news conference in Tampa. Howell Emanuel Donaldson III is charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
He was arrested Nov. 28 after handing a bag containing a handgun to a co-worker at a McDonald's restaurant near the Seminole Heights neighborhood where the victims were apparently randomly picked off as they walked. Prosecutors have said the ballistics tests show the weapon was used in the shootings.
"A prosecutor's pursuit of justice should be tempered by mercy, but some crimes are so unconscionable, so hard to fathom that we must leave mercy to a higher power and instead focus on achieving justice for the victims and their families," Warren said.
Some families of the victims — Benjamin Mitchell, 22, Monica Hoffa, 32, Anthony Naiboa, 20, Ronald Felton, 60 — told prosecutors they favored the death penalty for Donaldson while others preferred a life sentence, Warren said. In the end, he said, all of the families were OK with proceeding with the death sentence.
"The death penalty is for the worst of the worst, crimes that are far more egregious than the typical murder, and that's exactly what we have here," Warren said, adding that Donaldson is accused of killing for people in a "cold, calculating and premeditated manner."