Tampa, Florida, police are crediting a McDonald’s worker with a tip that led to the arrest of a suspect who allegedly fatally shot four persons in the Seminole Heights neighborhood, a crime spree that started on October 9 and terrorized the area. Authorities have charged the suspect, Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, 24, with four counts of first-degree murder.
The suspect made his first court appearance today, and a Hillsborough County judge ruled that he will be held without bond pending the next court hearing early next week.
Donaldson, who was taken into custody on Tuesday afternoon, also worked at the McDonald’s fast-food outlet in the Ybor City section of Tampa.
According to AP, the break in the case came when Donaldson allegedly asked a co-worker to hold on to a bag that contained a loaded gun while he left the restaurant to do an errand.
“The co-worker looked inside the bag, spotted the weapon and approached a Tampa police officer who was sitting in the restaurant doing paperwork. When Donaldson returned to the McDonald’s, police were waiting.”
The suspect reportedly was cooperative with detectives and allowed them to examine the weapon, a .40 caliber Glock, which he admitted he owned. He also allowed the police to search his cell phone and car, WFLA reported. Cell phone data apparently showed the suspect’s device in the proximity of three of the murders, and shell casings found at all four crime scenes allegedly matched the gun in question. Clothes in the car reportedly had a similarity to what a suspect was wearing on the night of the first murder, according to surveillance video. Police have been unable to determine a motive for the alleged crimes, and the suspect has not confessed to any killings.
BREAKING NEWS: Chief Dugan announced that Howell Donaldson III will face charges in connection with 4 murders in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. pic.twitter.com/MuqAWLRyN9— TampaPD (@TampaPD) November 29, 2017
At a press conference, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan thanked the McDonald’s worker for information that ended a 51-day manhunt by multiple law enforcement agencies, WSVN explained.
“That was the bit of information we were looking for. That’s what we needed. The person who called us, I cannot thank them enough for standing up and doing the right thing and saying, ‘This doesn’t seem right. Why does this person have a gun in this bag?’”
New York City authorities are apparently interested in reviewing ballistics results from the weapon in question in connection with some unsolved crimes there. The suspect graduated from St. John’s University in 2017.
A local businessman, who had offered a $9,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the Seminole Heights shooter, hand-delivered a check to the McDonald’s worker yesterday.
He had pledged a $9,000 reward for the arrest of the suspected serial killer in Tampa. So he stopped by McDonald's to hand-deliver a check to the employee who notified police about the gunman. STORY: https://t.co/Qw5ycN228r pic.twitter.com/O9BnxaXVP0— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) November 29, 2017
As this is an unfolding story, watch this space for updates and developments in the Tampa serial killer investigation and the related court proceedings.