Judge makes evidence ruling in Seminole Heights serial killer case

Posted at 6:48 AM, May 18, 2021 and last updated 3:01 PM, July 26, 2023

By Lisette Lopez

TAMPA, Fla. (SCRIPPS) — A judge ruled prosecutors cannot use evidence from other murders in each of Howell Donaldson’s four trials. Howell Donaldson is the accused Seminole Heights serial killer charged with killing four people in the fall of 2017.

On March 25, a judge sided with Donaldson’s defense saying all four cases are not similar enough. Donaldson is being tried separately for each of the 2017 murders.

Prosecutors were hoping to allow evidence of all murders into each trial. However, the judge ruled otherwise.

The judge noted some similarities of the murders — each victim was alone at the time, they did not know Donaldson and the suspect was able to get away each time.

However, the judge said it was not enough to prove a motive or intent.

Prosecutors said they may appeal the decision, but they have not decided yet.

“Separating the trials and now limiting how the evidence can be presented certainly creates new challenges for our prosecutors,” said State Attorney Andrew Warren.

The state is seeking the death penalty against Donaldson, who is accused of shooting and killing Monica Hoffa, 32, Anthony Naiboa, 20, Benjamin Mitchell, 22, and Ronald Felton, 60. The string of deaths in 2017 shook Seminole Heights and the Tampa Bay area.

This story was originally published March 25, 2021, by Lisette Lopez of WFTS in Tampa Bay.