Judge considers how much each jury will hear in Seminole Heights killing cases

Howell Trae Donaldson, III will face four juries, one for each victim he's accused of gunning down over the course of eight weeks back in 2017.

Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Samantha Ward made the decision to separate the trials but now has to decide whether the four juries will hear testimony and evidence related to the other cases.

Lead prosecutor Scott Harmon hopes so.

"The murders are all committed under the cover of darkness," Harmon said.

During a Friday hearing in a Tampa courtroom, Harmon asked the judge to allow Donaldson's prior bad acts and crimes in each trial, also known as Williams Rule evidence.

Donaldson is accused of gunning down Monica Hoffa, Ronald Felton, Benjamin Mitchell, and Anthony Naiboa, a string of killings that terrified residents in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. 

Shortly after his arrest, Donaldson told his parents during a jail visit that life behind bars was making him sick and "broken."

But things could get worse for Donaldson. Prosecutors want to send him to death row.

Harmon argued all four murders are connected and each jury should hear about all of them.

"The murder victims were all unarmed and defenseless when they were attacked," argued Harmon.

But Hillsborough County public defender Dana Herce accused the state of stacking the deck against Donaldson.

"We believe the court should find that there is no meaningful relationship between these killings, that they are not similar in nature," Herce told the court.

While both sides wrestled over evidence, Monica Hoffa's father, Kenny Hoffa says he has grown impatient with delays and urged the judge to pick up the pace.

"We are just waiting for justice and it’s really hard, every anniversary of this we go through reliving everything that goes on. We are just ready to move on," said Hoffa.

Judge Ward sympathized with Hoffa and all the victims' families and reassured Hoffa that everything was being done in a fair and just manner.

Judge Ward will hand down her ruling on the Williams Rule matter next week. Donaldson's next court date is set for July 16.