Rosita and Howell Donaldson II, the parents of accused Tampa serial killer Howell E. Donaldson III, run a local hair academy.
Howell Donaldson, 24, stands accused of the random shootings of four people in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of the Florida city. The random shooting spree, which started in early October, had terrified the community. On November 28, police received a tip that Howell, a McDonald’s restaurant employee, was at the restaurant with a gun. They took him into custody for questioning, and then announced he was being charged in the Seminole Heights killings a few hours later.
Tampa’s mayor declared that good had triumphed over evil. All of that has a lot of people wondering about Howell Donaldson’s background and family. Photos on his mother’s Facebook page appeared to show a close-knit local family. The accused killer has long ties to the Tampa area and his life seemed promising, until lately.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Howell Donaldson’s Parents Run a Licensed Hair Academy in Tampa
According to the website for Shear Excellence Hair Academy, Inc., Rosita Donaldson is the “president/CFO/Director/Instructor” and her husband, Howell Donaldson (the father of the suspect) is listed as “vice president, operational manage, student services.”
Shear Excellence Hair Academy Inc. is “licensed by the Florida Department of Education and has been in existence since 2002 and is accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences. Accreditation means the school is recognized by a national accrediting agency and is approved by the United States Department of Education to administer Title IV federal financial aid to those who qualify,” the website reports.
“Shear Excellence Hair Academy is committed to excellence in Cosmetology, Nail Technology, and Restricted Barber. Shear Excellence Hair Academy being and accredited academy – is an academy with goals to meet high standards of performance. We currently meet a successful passing rate for the State Board Examination, and offer placement assistance to graduates. Those who receive education in this industry can become successful, and we have made a commitment and dedication to help our students reach their dreams with a future that starts with a career in the beauty industry,” continues the website.
2. Both the Suspect & His Father Had Received Traffic Tickets on the Mustang that Police Confiscated
Police say they received their break in the case when they received a tip that Donaldson, the son, had handed a gun to a co-worker at the McDonald’s. Once they arrived at the scene, they took him into custody for questioning in the shootings and confiscated a red Mustang that was parked at the restaurant. The news media played endless video footage showing that red vehicle at the McDonald’s.
“Hillsborough County court records show that two people have had traffic tickets while driving that vehicle: Howell E. Donaldson, 52, and Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, 24,” reported The Ledger. “Neither man has a criminal arrest record in Florida, state records show.” According to the Ledger, “McDonald’s employee Gail Rogers said Donaldson had worked there for just two months. He showed up in a red Mustang, possibly his father’s car.”
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said in an earlier news conference that, after receiving a tip, police “confronted the person that had the gun” and were interviewing the person, now named as Donaldson. “It’s very early in the investigation,” Dugan stressed, adding that there had been more than 5,000 tips since the string of slayings started in early October 2017. He declared himself “optimistic” early on that police had found the Tampa killer.
Chief Dugan said before that news broke that he was optimistic because “things are falling in place,” but he said that had happened before and “led to nothing.” It’s “day 51 that we’ve been doing this,” the police chief said. “It’s been a long time for the families and for the cops…It’s going to be a long night.”
3. Rosita Is a Cosmetologist & Howell Sr. Has Managed Restaurants Throughout the Country
An online biography for Rosita Donaldson says she is an “acclaimed cosmetologist with over 21 years of creative, instructional and managerial experience in the hair industry. Having owned and operated her own salons for years, Rosita shared her passion for the industry with up and coming cosmetologist, nail technicians, barber hair designs and entrepreneurs.”
The bio adds that her “passion” extends to “restoring the beauty and confidence of disadvantaged individuals, helping the community by providing an educational service that would equip and improve the quality of life for those that wanted not just a job but a satisfying career. Today, Rosita greatly motivates and encourages everyone who crosses her path to hunger for success and excellence in life. She is well known by her peers to be a coach, motivator, and a mentor to those who work for her or around her. Rosita also encourages all program participants to hunger for success and perfection, and uses her skills to assist students anywhere to become the best that they can be.”
As for her husband, Howell Donaldson II, an online biography says that he has managed restaurants and salons throughout the country. “Howell Donaldson, Vic-President for Serenity Educational Programs, has worked in managerial positions for over twenty six years. Mr. Donaldson has managed large scale national restaurants with over $3 million dollars in revenue,” the bio reads. “He has also managed over 65 employees at a time providing training, evaluation, and payroll management. Mr. Donaldson has also owned and operated restaurants and salons throughout the country. He has created training modules and conducted training classes that would leave an employee motivated, inspired and encouraged to do better in their current position and strive for advancement. He also brings extensive sales experience from working in various financial and automotive multinational corporations.”
The Seminole Heights killer has struck several times since October 9. The victims are Benjamin Mitchell, 22; Monica Hoffa, 32; Anthony Naiboa, 20; and Ronald Felton, 60. It appears the victims were shot randomly.
Although officials fear the slayings add up to the work of a serial killer, they have stopped short of identifying the suspect as a serial killer.
Police previously released a sketch of the possible Tampa serial killer, as well as video appearing to show him. The slayings, which appear to be random, terrified people throughout Tampa since they broke out. The police sketch looks a lot like Howell Donaldson.
4. Rosita Donaldson’s Facebook Page Shows a Close Family
Rosita Donaldson filled her Facebook page with photos of her son, other children, and husband. They appeared to show a loving family. Her public posts show updated profile and cover photos that featured her children and husband in them, generally leading to accolades in the comment threads about how beautiful the family looked.
According to posts on her Facebook page, the couple have three children, two sons and a daughter, in total, including the suspect. The father was previously listed as a notary. The couple married in 1990, online records show.
With one 2015 picture, Rosita wrote, “Brother and sister, nothing but love for them. They are my oldest. I pray protection, favor and Blessing on them.”
5. Howell Donaldson Was Raised in Tampa & Played Basketball
Rosita and Howell Donaldson raised their son in Tampa. In 2011, Donaldson graduated from Alonso High School in Tampa. Donaldson played as a guard for the school’s varsity basketball team, according to Max Preps. Donaldson has a profile at St. John’s basketball webpage, but that bio does not say if Donaldson ever played for the team. Donaldson had a separate profile while at St. John’s that explains that he uses the nickname Trai because he is third generation. He adds that he was raised in Tampa. Donaldson concludes by saying, “I love basketball and plan on walking on for St. John’s basketball team.”
On social media, Donaldson said he received a degree in computer science with a minor in sports management. Donaldson worked for the New York Mets at CitiField in New York City. Donaldson gives his job title as “Guest Experience Host.” His roles included scanning tickets for all members entering the field and private VIP clubs. During his time at St. John’s, Donaldson worked as a student marketing assistant for the school, a conference services facilities assistant and a campus recreation student worker. In February 2015, Donaldson worked at an event for the NBA. While between February 2013 and May 2015 Donaldson worked at an Adidas store in New York City, his LinkedIn page shows.
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