TAMPA, Fla. - FOX 13 has obtained audio and video of jailhouse conversations the accused Seminole Heights killer had with his parents. Howell ‘Trai’ Donaldson talked to his mom and dad on the phone and then visited with them back in January.
The defense tried to block the release of the recordings, but that was denied and the audio and video were released Wednesday.
Donaldson has been locked up since November 2017, accused of gunning down four innocent people over a six-week span in Seminole Heights.
"I’m telling you, man, they in here killing me," Donaldson said. "I’m surprised I’m still here, honestly."
During the 18-minute phone call, Donaldson told his parents that his spirit was broken.
The 26-year-old's health and mental state were also discussed during a jailhouse visit with his mom and dad a few weeks later.
"Literally just trying to get through every day," he said.
He told them every day is agony, nothing is in his control, and he's struggling mentally and physically.
"The things I’ve experienced in here have changed my life forever," said Donaldson. "Just how I see the world, and the power of the mind is crazy, and you know, God is real."
Donaldson's parents repeatedly encouraged him to lean on his faith, and also work on strengthening his body and his mind.
"I’m going to ask the judge for some help because my heart can only take so much more," Donaldson said.
A week and a half later he did just that. For five minutes during his Jan. 29 hearing, Donaldson told the judge he's been physically ill.
"I’m an ex-college athlete and it's hard for me to stand right now, I’m struggling to stand right now, I know my body and I know I’m a strong guy," he said. "You ask me, I’m 26-years-old, I shouldn't feel like I’m 96-years-old."
Donaldson's next hearing is scheduled for later this month.