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Parents of Florida murder suspect refuses to answer questions

TAMPA, Florida. – The parents of the 24-year-old man suspected in a series of deadly shootings that terrorized a Florida neighborhood will go before a judge Thursday after refusing to answer questions about their son.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that investigators wanted to question Howell Donaldson, Jr. and Rosita Donaldson on Tuesday about Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, the background, history, gun possession and state of mind. But they refused, showing only the names, addresses and dates of birth of family members.

“This is a rarity,” said Attorney Andrew Warren. “Because most people understand that they have a duty to answer the questions. And when that duty is explained to them by a judge, they are willing to give us answers.”

The couple is scheduled to appear before Hillsborough County Judge Margaret Taylor during a 10-hour hearing to determine whether they should be held in contempt of court.

The younger Donaldson faces four counts of first-degree murder in the seemingly random shooting spree in Tampa’s Seminole Heights that began in the beginning of October. He was arrested Nov. 28.

In motions filed Wednesday, the state attorney’s office said the parents ‘ refusal to testify, despite receiving a court-approved subpoena constitutes indirect criminal contempt.

The newspaper reports that on Tuesday, Andrew Shafii, one of the two lawyers who accompanied by Rosita Donaldson, told the prosecutors, none of the parents would testify.

Harmon started to ask questions to the establishment of a record.

Rosita Donaldson said she and her husband have a 28-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son. She said that her son had a good relationship with his two grandparents and that the family had regular meetings around the holidays.

“Thanksgiving everyone was at our house,” she said.

When her lawyer interrupted, saying if she wanted to refuse to talk that she needed to say no. Harmon then asked her if she would continue.

“No,” she said. “With all due respect, I’m not answering any more questions.”

Ralph Fernandez, that the Donaldsons, said the parents are devastated, adding that their refusal to answer the questions was intended to prevent further emotional pain.

But Warren said they are only being questioned, as part of the research.

“We are not only building a case against the suspect, that we try to ask the broader question of why — a question that the families of the victims and the community deserve to have answered,” said Warren.

The court filings note that the parents have been granted immunity “by operation of Florida law.”

Unlike some states, Florida has no law establishing “parent-child privilege” that would keep communications between them confidential.

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Information: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.

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