Judge: Separate trials for Tampa man accused of killing 4

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A man accused of a series of killings that terrorized a Tampa neighborhood in 2017 will face four separate trials, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Attorneys for Howell Donaldson, 27, argued that a single trial for the four slayings would unfairly prejudice a jury to find him guilty, the Tampa Bay Times reported. They said each of the four killings committed in the Seminole Heights neighborhood were distinct in time, location and circumstances.

Prosecutors told Hillsborough Circuit Judge Samantha Ward that the relatively short time frame between the killings and the fact that the same brand of bullet shell casings were found at each scene were factors in making it one continuous rampage.

The judge agreed to the defense request for four trials.

Donaldson is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton. They were shot during October and November 2017.

The killings made international headlines and left residents afraid to go outside at night.

After a massive police investigation, Donaldson was arrested on Nov. 28, 2017. A manager at a McDonald’s restaurant where Donaldson worked called police after he handed her a bag containing a .40-caliber Glock handgun. She told investigators that Donaldson asked her to hold the bag while he ran an errand.

Donaldson later admitted the gun was his but denied involvement in the murders.

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