Accused serial killer's parents released from house arrest

The parents of suspected Seminole Heights serial killer Howell "Trae" Donaldson III are being released from several months of house arrest after reaching an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors’ investigation into the four murders.

Rosita and Howell Donaldson Jr. were found in civil contempt of court earlier this year after refusing to talk to investigators about their son, who’s accused in a month-long murder spree that terrified the community late last year.

The Donaldsons were threatened with jail but were instead placed on house arrest in February.  Since then, they’ve only been allowed out of their home for work, church, or doctor appointments.  In April, a judge also gave them permission to take their youngest son to school and visit their attorney.

At the time, their house arrest was said to be for a maximum of five months and 29 days, or until the couple decided to cooperate with the State Attorney’s Office.

In a hastily-scheduled hearing Monday afternoon, prosecutors announced that they would no longer be trying to question the Donaldsons in person because the couple had each agreed to provide a sworn affidavit.

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"We have reviewed it, discussed it, and after considering it, it appears to address our investigative concerns," one prosecutor told the judge.

With that, the judge agreed to release the Donaldsons from all restrictions.  They did not say anything during the brief hearing.

Prosecutors later explained what, specifically, they were asking the Donaldsons.

"They confirmed that they have no information about their son's whereabouts at the time of the murders and no information regarding any mental health issues," a State Attorney's Office spokesperson wrote.

Trae Donaldson, meanwhile, is being evaluated by doctors to determine if he is fit to stand trial. He’s accused in the murders of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa, and Ronald Felton.

He was arrested in November after allegedly handing a bag with the murder weapon over to his manager at an Ybor City McDonald’s.

The 25-year-old faces the death penalty if convicted.