Something Very Odd with the Story About the Seminole Heights Shooting Arrest

by Scott Creighton

Why would Donaldson leave the weapon at the restaurant, with his manager? That was one of the questions police did not answer after the arrest.” Tampabay.com

A suspect has been arrested in the Seminole Heights serial murder case which has taken the lives of 4 Tampa residents very near where I live.

Howell Emanuel Donaldson III was arrested on four counts of first-degree murder when he returned to his place of employment at a McDonald’s in Ybor City yesterday at around 2:40pm. The charges relate to the 4 victims in the Seminole Heights murder spree which has been going on down here for just over 50 days. These are the victims:

The first to die was Benjamin Mitchell, 22, on Oct. 9. About two days later, Monica Hoffa, 32, was shot and killed. On Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, 20, was gunned down. The last victim, Ronald Felton, 60, was slain on Nov. 14. Tampabay.com

There are several details about this case and this arrest specifically that simply don’t add up.

The first of which is just how the arrest itself came to pass.

The break police were waiting for came around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. That’s when Donaldson showed up at the McDonald’s at 2101 E 13th Ave, where drivers exit Interstate 4 to reach historic E Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.

McDonald’s employee Gail Rodgers said Donaldson had worked there for just two months. He was wearing his McDonald’s uniform and showed up in a red Mustang, possibly his father’s car.

Rodgers said Donaldson asked the manager to hold onto his semiautomatic pistol for him. She said it was loaded. Then Donaldson walked to Amscot to get a payday loan. Police said he was a crew leader at the restaurant, but Rodgers did not know if he was working that day.

The manager didn’t know what to do with the gun. Rogers said she huddled with the manager and told him to alert an officer inside the restaurant. Tampabay.com

So this guy shows up at work, where he has only worked FOR ABOUT THE SAME AMOUNT OF TIME THE SHOOTINGS HAVE BEEN TAKING PLACE… and he asks THE MANAGER to hold his LOADED WEAPON while he walks to get a payday loan?

He had a car in the parking lot. Why not leave his gun in that?

Image result for Howell Emanuel Donaldson III

What did he expect his manager to do with a loaded gun? And why give someone the ONLY PIECE OF HARD EVIDENCE OF HIS CRIME and then simply walk across the street, letting that MANAGER KNOW he would be back in a few minutes?

They said he went to Amscot but since I live down here I started thinking I didn’t remember an Amscot in that area. So I Googled it and this is what I found (the star is the location of the McDonald’s):

Why the hell would someone walk that far to get a payday loan when they had a perfectly functioning vehicle in the parking lot?

And why would he stop by his place of employment, wearing his uniform, on route to the payday loan location rather than just going there to start with? To drop off the ONE PIECE of hard evidence that could put him away forever?

Plus, his fellow employee said she didn’t know if he was working that day. We know McDonald’s aren’t that large so he certainly wasn’t taking a break from work. He just showed up to give his MANAGER the incriminating evidence… and then he strolled off to an Amscot a mile or so away… leaving his car parked in the lot.

And then he came back and was surprised to find them waiting to arrest him?

Really?

As odd as all of that is, one could possibly argue that he felt compelled to be caught and knew these actions would result in that outcome and that is the only possible explanation for the strange events surrounding his arrest. It could be that he wanted to get high before his shift started and locked his keys in the car so he couldn’t store his incriminating evidence in it. I clutching at straws here… but it could be… something. I guess.

However… that’s not the end of the strangeness.

As I posted above, reporters at last night’s press conference asked about this seemingly odd behavior and the Tampa PD didn’t offer any answers.

The chief cautioned the public that his detectives were still preparing the official paperwork for the arrest. Dugan also would not say if Donaldson had confessed or made any statements to police. There were many details about the investigation that the chief said they could not yet discuss.

Unfortunately I will not have the answers that you want,” Dugan said. “This is an ongoing situation.”

Among the questions police still need to answer, the chief said: “We’re not sure why he was in this neighborhood. We’re not sure what his ties are or what motivated him.” The Ledger

Plus…

Law enforcement has not said anything about the suspect’s fingerprints being found on the weapon.

So why did THIS happen:

As Donaldson walked back into the McDonald’s parking lot, officers were waiting. Police took him away, saying only that he was being questioned.

The restaurant was quickly surrounded by officers, who blocked it off with crime scene tape as they examined the red sports car. As word spread, a relative of one of the victims went to the McDonald’s. Tampabay.com

Almost immediately, crime scene tape was used to cordon off the area and the restaurant in spite of the fact that they apparently had no way of knowing that particular weapon was linked to the Seminole Heights shootings.

What they had was a gun. Possibly stolen… but at that point… only a gun. Perhaps the same caliber. But still, just a gun.

In a city the size of Tampa, confiscating firearms, though certainly a big deal to get them off the streets, doesn’t warrant crime scene tape, scores of officers scouring the scene and a bevy of news reporters and their camera crews showing up almost IMMEDIATELY.

Did he confess? That HAS to be the ONLY possible explanation for this… right? Because if he didn’t I seriously doubt the crime lab would have gotten their hands on that firearm and tested it and matched the casing to the ones in the murders BEFORE THE SUN WENT DOWN YESTERDAY (see the picture of the tape around the red Mustang).

Image result for Howell Emanuel Donaldson III

They supposedly got the tip at 2:40pm and those cops are already there with tape already strung up. It gets dark around here at about 6pm so there is no way any tests could have been done on that weapon prior to them roping off the scene.

So they don’t know a motive or any possible connection to the area of the attacks which makes it hard to understand how he could have confessed without giving them that much information at least.

And then there is this:

Dugan said at a news conference earlier in the day that officers had recovered a gun but that it wasn’t yet known whether it was the gun used in one or more of the recent killings.

Angelique DuPree, Mitchell’s cousin, said in an interview that an arrest “would bring closure and relief, relief for us, but more so for the city itself, because it’s been on pins and needles.”

Even if it’s not the guy, just to know they got somebody with a gun off the street is a good thing,” DuPree said. NBC News published less than an hour ago

If he confessed, wouldn’t they know it was the gun? Wouldn’t they have known by the time Dugan gave his press conference? Would he have said something like “even if it’s not the guy”?

This is totally bizarre.

Now, it’s been hard to find the official arrest affidavit in this case. I saw a reporter with a copy on one this morning but was having trouble finding it online but I did find it. Only, when you click on the Scribd link to read it close up… it’s been pulled of that site.

So, I took screenshots of the small viewer on the WTSP website.

This is what it looks like:

There was no confession. In fact he claims to have no connection or knowledge of that area.

According to the official document (which again, has been pulled from the Scribd website) there has been an awful lot of CIS type investigation into this case already and the guy was detained less than 24 hours ago.

  • They claim they located his cell phone via cell tower “pings” in the area of the shootings on three of the nights (first three)
  • They claim they have already done a casing comparison and found matches with casings from the three of the shootings (first three)
  • They claim they searched his car and found a piece of clothing with what could be a drop of blood on it
  • They say he purchased the gun legally on Oct. 3rd, picked it up on Oct. 7th and the shootings started on Oct. 9th
  • They say he gave permission for the searches of his car and phone records but then refused anymore comments when confronted with evidence and asked for a lawyer.

No confession.

All of these tests take time yet police were all over the scene immediately after this very odd arrest took place. Not only the police… but reporters.

Why?

And why is it that none of the hard evidence they found links to the forth shooting? Not the cell phone tracking and not the casings? That shooting came nearly a month after the last of the other three. Almost as if it’s a copy-cat. And none of this evidence ties the suspect to it… yet he is still charged with that murder… with no confession?

Look, I don’t know how many firearms are confiscated by the police every year in Tampa but I imagine it’s a pretty high number. Do they all this kind of police activity and press coverage? No. Of course not. So why, without a confession, did they run down there thinking they had a serial killer simply because they confiscated a .40cal handgun under such suspect conditions?

I mean… did anyone investigate the manager? I would have.

However you look at it, it’s a very odd story too say the least. Couple all of that with the fact that this guy had no apparent motive, no criminal record that I know of, no fingerprints on the handgun that the official document mentions or the cops mentioned and no apparent connection to the victims and the location and yes.. the bizarre circumstances of his arrest…

.. very odd indeed.

UPDATES

Like I said, no confession

Police chief says the arrest was the result of great police work. funny… sounds like it just fell in their laps. In fact, had he not given gun to his manager, that officer would have been sitting there in the McDonalds while he waited on her.

And he is being charged with all four murders in spite of the fact that the casings didn’t match and his cell phone records didn’t put him at that scene (the forth)

Dugan forgets about innocent until proven guilty

more to come

22 Responses

  1. I read this story in NY Daily News last night & it made no sense. Fortuitous you live nearby, looking forward to more of your research. NYDN said there is video of the shooter…

  2. Is there any proof that any of these people were actually murdered?

  3. FLASHBACK….

    “Our inability to talk has been a concern for us as it has been for you,”
    Moose read. “You have indicated that you want us to do and say certain things. You asked us to say, ‘We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose.’ We understand that hearing us say this is important to you…

  4. You know a lot of times these incidents start out with scant information due to the legalities of the case. Usually they are ruling out other killers and don’t want to broadcast their next steps in the event there are.
    So, yes, there is going to be a lot of missing pieces that look bizarre on the surface, but once all the facts come out, usually things make more sense.

    Not always, but most of the time. Let’s pray they got their man.

  5. If he was going to walk to Amscott, he wouldn’t want to carry a loaded gun, but why walk? Either he is very stupid or thought everyone else was very stupid….. or do employees at that McDonalds feel the need to have a gun behind the counter? And he took his gun home at night and took it to work when he came on duty? Where did he live? Does it involve driving through the Seminole area?
    Handing the gun to the manager took a lot of trust … and why would she open his bag? Who is she?

    • http://wfla.com/2017/11/29/seminole-heights-murder-suspect-who-is-howell-trai-donaldson/

      the link above reveals some good general info about Donaldson….. a basketball player… went to college in NYC (maybe that’s when he felt the need to have a gun?

    • Those are all good questions Jan. Speculating based on incomplete facts is fun for the mystery side, it let’s not get carried away. For all we know they reported it amscott 2 miles away, but he went to a different check cashing place closer. Maybe he confessed on the scene. Maybe they beat it out of him. Maybe the news is exaggerating the story knowing they can retract things later. Without any further info we are just spinning our wheels.

      • you could actually read the arrest affidavit and learn for yourself that he didn’t confess on the scene. And, you could easily Google earth the location for yourself and see if there is another check cashing place in the area… there isn’t that I saw.

        • [edit: this is Noam again, our house troll with the never ending IP addresses and persona names. Once again, he’s here to bring us back to the establishment position ala Cass Sunstein. Needless too say, he’s banned again and his comments erased.]

      • Another question: As he was walking back toward McDonalds… wouldn’t he have seen the police cars around McDonalds? If so, and if he was a murderer, wouldn’t he have immediately turned away from them and walked away in another direction? Why would he have continued toward the police?

  6. Why on Earth would a manager at McDonalds hold a gun for a new employee? That seems EXTREMELY unlikely.

    • yeah. why would the manager even take it? thats a good point. McDonalds employees aren’t allowed to be strapped at work, even down here in Florida, to my knowledge. very strange

      • The only reasons I can think of are 1) the manager was just about the stupidest most incompetent person who ever lived, or 2) the manager was in on whatever was going on.

    • [edit: this is Noam again, our house troll with the never ending IP addresses and persona names. Once again, he’s here to bring us back to the establishment position ala Cass Sunstein. Needless too say, he’s banned again and his comments erased.]

  7. [edit: this is Noam again, our house troll with the never ending IP addresses and persona names. Once again, he’s here to bring us back to the establishment position ala Cass Sunstein. Needless too say, he’s banned again and his comments erased.]

    • [edit: this is Noam again, our house troll with the never ending IP addresses and persona names. Once again, he’s here to bring us back to the establishment position ala Cass Sunstein. Needless too say, he’s banned again and his comments erased.]

  8. I’m sure you’re aware of Dave McGowan’s book Programmed to Kill, but for those who don’t, it’s right up this alley. The man did some unbelievable research into the “high weirdness” surrounding supposed serial killers.
    One item of interest is the almost surreal similarities of those captured/caught still alive. With uncanny coincidence, their trials are enormous shams.
    Very few important questions are asked or covered and the police departments seem to be quite content with having “nabbed their guy”

  9. I keep hearing Chief Wiggums voice in my head when I read Chief Dugan’s quotes, especially the nonsense he seems to be spouting about good police work, blah blah blah.

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