Seminole Heights homeowners believe they’re owed reward for murder arrest

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Seminole Heights homeowners who provided surveillance video of a suspected serial killer question why they aren’t receiving some of the $100,000 reward money for the arrest of Howell Donaldson III, who is now charged with four counts of murder. At the very least, they say, they deserve a formal thank you from law enforcement.Patrick Holliday says his wife saw a man run past their home on the night of Oct. 9, 2017, within moments of a report of shots fired in the neighborhood. Holliday then looked at surveillance video from the home’s camera and noticed a man walking one direction, then running the opposite way. Holliday contacted the Tampa Police Department about the video, and says the law enforcement agency was very interested in what the camera captured. 

“The time stamp (showing the man) going one way agreed with the time stamp going the other way, with the murder in between. So that was a good indication that was something right there,” Holliday tells News Channel 8.The Tampa Police Department shared the video publicly, announcing the man on the video was a person of interest in the murder of Benjamin Mitchell and then, several weeks later, announcing the man was a suspect in a murder spree that began with Mitchell’s death. 

Holliday claims the video’s role in the investigation is being downplayed. He points to the fact that coworkers of Howell Donaldson, who began working at McDonald’s in Ybor City within days of Mitchell’s murder, joked that he looked like the man in the surveillance video. On Nov. 28, 2017, Donaldson left a bag at the McDonald’s and told his manager not to look inside of it. She did anyway and, realizing a gun was inside, handed the bag over to a Tampa police officer. When Donaldson returned to the McDonald’s, police arrested him and later charged him with four counts of first-degree murder, based on evidence that the gun owned by Donaldson was used in all of the shooting deaths.

“I think we provided more (information) than the average person,” said Holliday. “McDonald’s wouldn’t have suspected him at all, and (wouldn’t have) teased him about looking like the killer, so I think our video played a very important role.”

The McDonald’s manager who provided the gun to police will receive the $100,000 reward, and was also given reward money by local business owner Richard Gonzmart.

According to the Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay website, that organization will not pay rewards for information provided through any source other than tips submitted directly to its program via its anonymous tip line, website, text tipping program or the Tipsubmit mobile app.

The Hollidays tell News Channel 8 they don’t expect to see a dime of the reward money, but feel they risked their own safety to become involved in the investigation. They say law enforcement investigators installed their own surveillance camera on their home and used their Wi-Fi to monitor that camera around the clock. The camera was removed following the arrest of Donaldson. The Hollidays have not heard from investigators since the arrest.

At the very least, the Hollidays say they want a letter of thanks from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn or Tampa Chief of Police Brian Dugan.News Channel 8 asked the Tampa Police Department about the Holliday’s claim that they haven’t received a thank you for providing evidence in the case. The TPD says they previously thanked the couple for the video.

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