TAMPA (FOX 13) - For five months and 29 days, the parents of the accused Seminole Heights shooter will be under house arrest - unless they decide to cooperate with the State Attorney's Office's investigation into their son.
Howell Donaldson, Jr. and his wife Rosita were told by a judge Friday they can’t leave their home unless it’s for work, church, or doctor appointments.
During a Friday morning hearing, Hillsborough County Judge Mark Wolfe found them to be in civil contempt of court, saying they willfully violated a court order and subpoena.
The Donaldsons will have to wear GPS monitors. The duration will be for five months unless they cooperate with the
Both were scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m., but didn't show up. However, they appeared after a judge ordered their attorneys to bring them.
The judge gave the Donaldsons until 10 a.m. to show up, which they did.
The Donaldson's attorney Ralph Fernandez says the Donaldsons knew the consequences of refusing to cooperate.
"They almost went to jail and they didn't change their position," he said.
But State Attorney Andrew Warren said during Friday morning's proceedings, it was not the prosecution’s intent to have the Donaldsons end up in jail.
"That’s why we were willing to bend over backward,” Warren explained. “We offered to limit our questions only to information we didn't want sprung on us at trial. If they had some information that was going to exculpate the defendant. We weren't ever going to ask them for anything incriminating.”
Fernandez says what’s happening to his clients has never happened to any other parent, anywhere across the country.
“This is a bad day situation developing out of Tampa, Florida when you compel somebody to testify against their own child," said Fernandez.
Prosecutors argue that’s probably because other parents have complied.
Fernandez quickly rejected that, "That’s not plausible. It’s probably because no prosecutor has chosen to travel that route," said Fernandez.
Their son faces four murder charges and is accused of murdering four people within six weeks in the southeast portion of the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa.