TAMPA, Fla. - If Howell 'Trai' Donaldson, III is convicted of murdering four people in the Seminole Heights neighborhood, Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren said he will consider sentencing him to the death penalty.
Following Donaldson's first court appearance on Thursday morning, Warren said, "The death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst offenders in our society. Generally speaking, a serial killer would qualify, but it is my duty to follow the law."
Warren's office has until December 19 to bring formal charges before a grand jury to indict Donaldson on capital charges.
Until then, a judge will decide if Donaldson should be kept behind bars.
"For the community's safety, we are seeking that the defendant be held without bail during the trial," said Warren.
If Donaldson is convicted, Warren said he will take the opinions of the victims' family members into account before sentencing.
The families of 19-year-old Anthony Naiboa and 32-year-old Monica Hoffa said on Wednesday that they want the death penalty.
"He don't deserve to live no more. After taking four lives, he don't deserve to live," said Naiboa's sister, Karen Naiboa.
"I'd like to see swift justice. We have too many people that stay on death row for too long. I'd like to see him get exactly what he gave to our community," said Hoffa's uncle, Robert Hoffa.
During the search for her brother's killer, Ronald Felton's sister, Tina Felton expressed interest in seeing his killer put to death.
A family member of Benjamin Mitchell, on the contrary, said on Wednesday that she does not support killing Donaldson if he is convicted.
"How can I say that I love God and take what is his out of his hand? I've never believed in the death penalty, and I still don't," said Angelique Dupree, Mitchell's aunt who also knew Donaldson's parents.
Since taking office this year, Warren has pursued the death penalty in five of the 24 cases he inherited. He has also sparred several lives.
The death penalty was taken off the table during a plea deal for Charles Foster. Foster was convicted of using an ax four years ago to bludgeon his best friend and a buddy to death in a Seffner mobile home.
Warren's office also dropped the death penalty for Lawrence Bongiovanni , who was convicted of hiding in a 7/11 bathroom and killing a clerk, and Antwoine Noland, who is accused of hunting down and killing a witness set to testify against him.
The state attorney made his stance clear on Donaldson's case on Thursday
"To our entire community, I want to say again, plainly and clearly, we will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law," said Warren.
Back in August, the Florida Supreme Court sided with Governor Rick Scott in ruling that he had the constitutional authority to strip death penalty-eligible cases from Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala.
Ayala said she would refuse to seek the death penalty in her cases, including the case of murder suspect Markeith Lloyd, who is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton.
Warren said on Thursday that he had not spoken to Governor Scott regarding Donaldson's case.
In a statement regarding Donaldson's case on Thursday, Governor Scott's Press Office wrote, "The senseless loss of life in Seminole Heights is heartbreaking, and Govern Scott strongly believes that anyone responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."