The parents of suspected Seminole Heights killer will have to appear in court on Friday, Jan. 5, to show why they should not be held in civil contempt of court for refusing to answer questions about their son.
Judge Margaret Taylor gave the order Thursday, after the defense and prosecution met at a hearing to determine whether Howell Donaldson Jr. and his wife, Rosita Donaldson, should be held in contempt of court for not providing information to authorities.
Their son, Howell Donaldson III, 24, is facing four counts of first degree murder in the Seminole Heights shootings.
The judge opted to pursue indirect civil contempt in place of criminal contempt, and gave the Donaldson’s until after the holidays to prove their case. The change from criminal to civil reflects the prosecutors’ goal of compelling the couple to testify instead of criminalizing them.
“This is a very difficult case,” said the couple’s attorney, Ralph Fernandez. “The Donaldsons have been devastated, not just for the personal tragedy but for everything that’s happened.”
Fernandez said the couple has received death threats and feel like hostages in their home. He said they haven’t slept and have even considered leaving town.
He went on to defend the Donaldsons’ choice to not speak to authorities, saying they felt uncomfortable about answering questions that could indirectly lead to the possible execution of their son.
Prosecutor Jay Pruner argued there is no privilege that allows the parents to avoid answering questions.
The Donaldsons will return to the court to appear before the judge at 10 a.m.