Local law enforcement apprehended a suspected serial killer terrorizing the streets of Tampa, investigators announced Tuesday.
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said during a press conference late Tuesday a 24-year-old man named Howell Emanuel Donaldson III will be charged with four counts of first degree murder — ending a search that began more than six weeks ago in the city’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.
“Unfortunately, I am not going to have the answers you want,” he said. “This is an ongoing situation.”
Donalsdon drew the attention of law enforcement earlier in the day when he asked a manager at the McDonald’s where he once worked in Ybor City — about four miles south of area of the murders — to hold a loaded 9 mm handgun. The manager alerted an on duty police officer dining inside the restaurant at the time, who called for back up.
“We said all along that no tip is too small and somebody stepped forward and gave us what we needed,” Dugan said.
It’s been 51 days since Donaldson claimed his first alleged victim — 22-year-old Benjamin Edward Mitchell at a bus stop near his home in Seminole Heights Oct. 9. Four days later, residents discovered the body of 32-year-old Monica Caridad Hoffa in a vacant lot six blocks away. A third man, 20-year-old Anthony Naiboa, was gunned down Oct. 19 — just 200 yards from where Mitchell was found shot.
Police suspected the cases were linked and released video footage of a man believed to be involved in the crimes. Thousands of tips poured in over the next four weeks as the reward for information leading to the killer neared six figures.
The murder of 60-year-old Ronald Felton on Nov. 14 as he crossed the street to the food bank where he volunteered twice a week, however, spurred new leads in the case — including additional video footage of a possible suspect.
“We’re not sure why he was in the neighborhood,” Dugan said. “We don’t know what his ties were or what his motive is.”
He said the arrest announcement would generate more questions than answers, but promised more updates in the case Wednesday.
“You know, 51 days ago, I said this was a struggle between good and evil,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn during Tuesday’s news conference. “Well tonight, goodness has won … tonight is the beginning of when justice will be served.”