An accused serial murderer dubbed the “Seminole Heights Killer” used the occasion of a pre-trial court hearing to complain to the judge that his time behind bars has been bad for his health.
“Since I’ve gotten in jail, for the last 14 months I’ve become physically ill. I do sincerely need some help,” pleaded Howell “Trae” Donaldson III, speaking to a Florida courtroom on Jan. 29.
The accused, who faces charges of killing four people in Seminole Heights, Fla., spoke in a Tampa court for about 5 minutes, according to Fox13, and presented the judge with a list of grievances in three areas.
First, Donaldson told the judge he wants to attend every hearing in his case. The news outlet cited the defendant’s attorneys as saying that there are over 300 witnesses that need to be interviewed during their client’s trial. The judge confirmed Donaldson’s right to be present at all of the hearings that are part of his murder trial, according to ABC Action News.
Second, he asked for transcripts of every hearing he has missed. The judge denied Donaldson’s request in this regard.
Third, he asked to see a doctor outside of jail, and complained about his poor health, saying that some “unfortunate things” have happened to him while incarcerated.
Donaldson did not elaborate on what misfortune had befallen him behind bars, but he did say he has been having trouble standing. “I’m an ex-college athlete and it’s hard for me to stand right now,” Donaldson said, adding “I’m 26-years-old I shouldn’t be feeling like I’m 96-years-old.”
The suspect clarified he was not referring to any mental issues he may have experienced in connection with his incarceration, but physical ailments.
“I’ve had just… some unfortunate things happen to me since I’ve been in there, I’ve become ill, physically ill, it’s not so much more mental, because you did send out a psychiatrist and psych team to evaluate me and they granted me competence as far as my mental state, I’m just asking for you to just get me some help, professional help” he said during the routine court hearing, according to ABC Action News.
The judge did not approve Donaldson’s request to see a doctor outside of jail. Instead, he ordered prison medical staff to evaluate Donaldson and report the findings to defense attorneys.
“I feel like if I’m in there much longer that my heart and body won’t be able to last under what I’ve been enduring,” Donaldson also told the judge, according to WTSP news.
Families of Victims Speak Out
A family member of Donaldson’s alleged fourth victim, Ronnie Felton, told WTSP reporters that she was disappointed that when Donaldson spoke in court, he didn’t use the opportunity to express remorse.
“He just personally didn’t give a damn about nothing,” said Tina Felton, adding, “I thought, well, maybe he’ll say he did it. Or, ‘I’m sorry.’ Or something.”
Casimar Naiboa, whose son, Anthony, was Donaldson’s third alleged victim, was cited by WTSP as saying that court officials told him what Donaldson asked for when he addressed the court Tuesday.
“This guy’s talking about feeling bad in jail after what he did,” said Naiboa, according to the outlet. “Anthony’s no longer with us. We’re the ones going through this.”
Naiboa added that in his view, Donaldson was a “psychopath.”
“I hope they don’t do nothing for him,” said Robert Hoffa, whose niece, Monica Hoffa, was Donaldson’s second alleged victim.
“Who cares if he was a college athlete?” asked Hoffa, according to WTSP. “You were a college athlete before you became a murderer.”
Four Counts of Premeditated Murder
Donaldson is accused in four murders that terrorized the Seminole Heights community in October 2017. Prosecutors say he gunned down four innocent people during a six-week period.
He faces four counts of premeditated murder in the killings of Benjamin Edward Mitchell, Monica Caridad Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa, and Ronald Felton, according to Tampa police chief Brian Dugan, reported WTSP.
Donaldson was arrested in November 2017 after a McDonald’s employee said Donaldson handed a gun to a manager.
Dugan told CBS News: “When I think I found out there was a gun, and when we looked at his description, it was a little more than what we really had. It just felt right. I kinda had a feeling that we were going to get a break.”
All the killings happened close to each other and weren’t robberies, police said, sparking fears they could have been carried out by a serial killer.
Donaldson’s next hearing is scheduled for April 23, 2019.