State to seek death penalty in Seminole Heights murders

State Attorney Andrew Warren revealed on Tuesday that he plans to pursue the death penalty against 24-year-old Howell Donaldson, III, a man accused of murdering four innocent people in southeast Seminole Heights in late 2017.

"The death penalty is for the worst of the worst, crimes that are far more egregious than the typical murder, and that's exactly what we have here," said Warren.

Warren called his decision "the most serious and sobering" one he's had to make since taking office. He said after reviewing the evidence for nearly two months, he saw no reason why the death penalty was not fitting for the crimes.

RELATED: Who is Howell Donaldson III? 

"There was no evidence of mental illness or any other mitigating factor that gives us pause about our decision to go forward," said Warren.

Between October to November of last year, Benjamin Mitchell, 22, Monica Hoffa, 32, Anthony Naiboa, 20, and Ronald Felton, 60, were each found shot and killed.

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Ronald's brother, James Felton, said Attorney Warren asked him directly if he wanted the state to pursue the death penalty, and he was torn.

"My brother is gone. He's been here for 60 years, and I was just hoping that they would give [Donaldson] 60 years plus for him to think about what he's done, why he did it, what went wrong, and did any problem affect him when he was coming up for him to trigger off like that?" said Felton.

"If it's death, it's easy," he added.

Felton said Ronald's twin brother, Reggie, was in favor of the death penalty.

For Monica Hoffa's family, capital punishment is the only fair punishment.

Her uncle, Robert Hoffa, said last week, "Is Benjamin, Ronald, Monica or Anthony going to enjoy Christmas? Are they going to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families? That's how I want to leave that. The ultimate punishment is he shouldn't be here either."

Warren said despite a difference of opinions, ultimately every victims' family was OK with his decision to pursue the death penalty.

The family of Anthony Naiboa, the third victim in the string of killings, are still focused on their grief and want to see justice done. 

"Anthony to me was my sunshine," said Maria Rodriguez, Naiboa's step-mother. "Why did this man snatch him out of our lives?"

Hours after the state attorney announced his decision, they visited the spot in Seminole Heights, near 15th and Conover, where he was gunned down to light a candle.

"They will know the consequences," said Casimar Naiboa, the victim's father.

And so begins what could be a decades-long process. 

"I have to get prepared. I know it is not going to be an easy ride," said Rodriguez. "But I do have faith that justice will be served."

Donaldson is due back in court on Friday along with his parents, Rosita and Howell Donaldson Jr., who are still facing civil contempt proceedings for refusing to answer prosecutors' questions about their son.

Donaldson Jr's attorney said his client was devastated by the news of Warren's death penalty decision.

"As all can imagine, he was deeply saddened by the decision," said Attorney A.J. Alvarez. Alvarez said his client maintains that his son is innocent.

Nine on Florida's death row have been there since the 70s, and dozens since the 80s.