TAMPA, Fla. - In the fall of 2017, four innocent people were gunned down in the streets of Seminole Heights. Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa, and Ronald Felton never made it home.
For six agonizing weeks, the community was gripped in fear. Now the man accused of the murders wants four separate trials.
In court documents just filed, attorneys for Howell "Trae" Donaldson III say evidence of each murder may help bolster proof in the other murders. The defense says that would stack the deck against Donaldson and the result would not be a fair trial.
They argue there is nothing connecting all four victims.
All of the shootings occurred on different dates, different areas of Seminole Heights, all the victims were shot in different areas of the body, and none of the victims knew each other.
While the gun may be connected to all the murders, they argue it does not create a meaningful relationship that would justify lumping the crimes together.
Defense attorney Anthony Rickman, who is not connected to the case, says prosecutors could argue it will be hard to separate the murders when some of the evidence may overlap.
"All the victims were killed in the same manner and evidence in one crime scene was used to link the defendant to the other crime scenes," explained Rickman.
However, all of this means very little to the victims’ families, who simply want justice. Benjamin Mitchell's sister, Nakeshia Brown, who now lives in Las Vegas, still can't believe her brother is gone.
"I miss my brother a whole, whole lot and it's hard because no matter what, he's never going to come back," said Brown.
Brown says life will never be the same and forgiveness won't come soon. I have so much hatred in my heart for this guy.”
Prosecutors are expected oppose severing the cases and have yet to file a response on the matter. A judge is expected to hear arguments later this month.