Despite what shows like Law and Order, CSI, and Criminal Minds tell us, not all crimes are solved within a half hour. Indeed, most crimes in the United States rarely get solved and those that do often take months, even years to solve.
Sometimes though, the overstretched authorities investigating these cases will catch a break. It just so happened that in this case, that break went down while the police were on an actual break…
There was a killer in Tampa. The neighborhood of Seminole Heights had been experiencing a rash of seemingly random killings since the beginning of October and though it seemed for a time that they might finally have stopped, the randomness of the murders were a definite cause for concern.
The first three people were killed within a 10-day period. Then, there was a huge lull in the killings until a fourth was shot and killed the following month. The only thing the four victims had in common was that they were walking alone through a neighborhood. What made the killings even more unusual was that the killer could have robbed the four victims, but didn’t…
The four victims, though shot dead and in cold blood, still had all of their belongings on them. The killer hadn’t even bothered to lift any cash from their wallets. It was this lack of motive that worried the police most. The randomness and lack of theft pointed to the beginnings of a serial killer, and that meant that it was only a matter of time until they struck again.
In truth, the police did have some clues as to the killers identity. For instance, they knew that the killer was male from the surveillance tapes, but they had no idea who he was. Not only that, they couldn’t figure out how he slipped away from the shootings so quickly. Then, suddenly another clue presented itself…
It seemed that in his haste to exit the crime scenes, the killer forgot to pick up after himself. Police found the shell casings of the bullets that killed: Monica Hoffa, Benjamin Mitchell, Anthony Naiboa, and Ronald Feltonat. All of them were SIG Sauer brand.40 caliber shell casings, and all of them, it appeared, came from a similar gun.
Though not all of the casings had come from the same Glock handgun, at least the first three had. It was enough to go looking for the glock in question however. The only problem now was finding the gun. It wasn’t as if they expected a potential serial killer to leave it lying around. As it turns out, he had done just that…
It so happened that one day, a few weeks later, a Tampa police officer was sitting in a local McDonald’s restaurant, eating lunch and trying to catch up on some much-needed paperwork, when all of a sudden, a manager came over to him with a rather unusual request. You see, she had been recently handed a package by her crew chief that contained a rather heavy object.
Hold This for Me
The McDonald’s worker was in a bit of a pickle, you see. She had been asked by her crew chief to hold onto something for him and keep it safe. He’d handed it to her in a paper bag, which as we all know, is the safest and most cliche way to get rid of a gun. She didn’t know what to do. It could have simply been that he couldn’t keep the weapon in his home, but it was just as likely that he had used it to commit a crime….
Hand it Over
Ultimately, the McDonalds worker decided to err on the side of caution and give it to the officer the moment she saw him sitting there. In her experience, most people don’t just hand off guns in paper bags unless they’re either giving it to a hitman, or hiding it from the cops. The Glock had a loaded magazine which contained five unfired rounds of the same .40 caliber ammunition that had killed the four victims.
The officer who had been handed the gun called for back-up, who were waiting when the crew chief finally returned. As soon as Howell Emanuel Donaldson III returned to the McDonald’s restaurant, he was taken into custody. The Tampa police finally had their culprit, but so many questions still remained, most of which focused on who this young man actually was…
Investigators tracked down 24-year-old Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, who had been an athlete throughout high school and had gotten a scholarship to play at St.John’s College. Donaldson had only ever been a walk-on member of the St. John’s basketball team and never actually played in any games during the 2011-12 season.
He had graduated from the school earlier in the year and become a crew chief at the same McDonald’s restaurant. It was strange that someone like Donaldson would be a killer, however. Indeed many who knew him could never in a million years have imagined that he was even capable of firing a gun, much less killing four people…
Store receipts for the gun showed that the owner had picked it up from a local store. The owner of the gun had registered it and had even waited the requisite four days to pick it up. He had done everything legitimately. Indeed it wasn’t until he left the weapon to someone else for safekeeping that the officers were able to track him down.
The Missing Link
“The gun is what we needed,” explained Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan at a news conference. Now that they had the gun, the link, and the casings, the investigators were 100 percent confident that Donaldson was the killer. Cell phone records were soon obtained which placed Donaldson at the crime scenes as well…
Cell Phone Records
Data obtained from Donaldson’s cell phone indicated that he was in the area of 1300 E Frierson Ave. in Southeast Seminole Heights on the same days as the first three murders. The AT&T cell phone tower that provided coverage for that area, further indicated that he was there on the day the fourth murder was committed as well.
Though not all of the casings had come from the same Glock handgun, at least the first three had. It was enough to go looking for the Glock in question however. The only problem now was finding the gun. It wasn’t as if they expected a potential serial killer to leave it lying around. As it turns out, he had done just that…
A search of Donaldson’s Ford Mustang, which had been parked at the McDonald’s, uncovered the same clothing that had been worn by the assailant in the surveillance video footage of the Benjamin Mitchell’s murder. They even found what they believe was a bloodstain on the clothing as well. The proof was adding up.
And yet, despite everything, investigators still weren’t 100 percent certain that Donaldson was the killer. He was friendly to detectives and arresting officers, was known as an all around nice guy, and had absolutely no motive to have killed any of the four victims. That and his basically spotless arrest record meant that even if it was clear he had done it, they still had to figure out WHY he’d done it…
Still, the Tampa police are openly sharing any information they have on Donaldson with the police in any of the other jurisdictions where Donaldson has lived over the years. This is just a precaution, though the chief is fairly certain that the suspect has not committed any similar crimes anywhere else. “We were really hoping to find out what was driving him to do this,” added the chief.
“We don’t have those answers yet. It’s an ongoing investigation. We’re going to speak to a lot of people now that we know who did this, we’re going to have a lot more tips, a lot more information.” he continued. As of yet, Donaldson is in police custody and has been charged with the four murders, though has not seen his day in court.