Former St. John’s University student Howell Donaldson arrested in string of Tampa killings that terrorized neighborhood

A suspected serial killer who terrorized Tampa for nearly two months attended St. John’s University in New York.

Howell (Trai) Donaldson III, 24, is accused of shooting four people to death between Oct. 9 and Nov. 14 in the city’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.

He was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon at the McDonald’s where he worked as a crew leader near the neighborhood he allegedly victimized, according to police.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Donaldson handed a manager a bag while he got a payday loan. The manager alerted an officer doing paperwork inside the fast food joint that there was a handgun inside.

The officer looked at the .40 Smith and Wesson inside and called for backup just before 3 p.m.

Donaldson was charged with four counts of premeditated murder and booked into the Hillsborough County jail at around 3 a.m. Tuesday.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan expressed gratitude to the fast food tipster.

“We got a break. Somebody stepped up and did the right thing,” the chief said.

Donaldson played basketball for St. John’s sometime after graduating high school in Tampa in 2011, according to his social media accounts.

He studied sports management and in 2016 he allegedly worked as a “guest experience host” for the Mets, according to his LinkedIn page.

He was arrested at least once during his NYC stint, but the 2014 case in Manhattan is sealed, a police source said.

Donaldson’s profile on a website for the St. John’s Red Storm men’s team was removed shortly after midnight.

Inquiries with the university and baseball team were not immediately returned.

Efforts to reach Donaldson’s relatives were unsuccessful.

Dugan was “optimistic” they’d found the monster responsible for the four seemingly random deaths.

Police suspect Anthony Naiboa, Monica Caridad Hoffa and Benjamin Mitchell were all shot by the same gunman.

“There’s a lot to go through, a lot to sift through and it’s going to take many things to fall in line,” Dugan said.

The police department received more than 5,000 tips during the investigation, Dugan said.

Tampa police released chilling surveillance footage on Nov. 15 showing the suspect walking just before 60-year-old Ronald Felton was killed.

Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was the first victim that kicked off the two months of terror.

Monica Hoffa, 32, was killed on Oct. 11 and Anthony Naiboa, 20 was shot to death on Oct. 19 after taking the wrong bus home.

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Outdoor dining, as seen here at Mama’s on Washington Square in North Beach in September, is expected to resume in San Franisco this week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to reopen outdoor dining, personal services

San Francisco will allow outdoor dining and other limited business activity to… Continue reading

Patients line up in their cars to receive a shot at The City’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at City College of San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Legislation would require SF to create a public COVID-19 vaccine plan — fast

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would have to come up with… Continue reading

Ian Jameson (center) organized a group of tenant rights activists and assembled at the El Monte City Hall to demand that the City Council there pass an eviction moratorium barring all evictions during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
California would extend eviction protections to June 30 under proposal

Legislation released Monday would also subsidize rent for low-income tenants

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Comedian and actor Bob Odenkirk is among the dozens of performers in Festpocalypse, streaming this weekend to benefit SF Sketchfest. (Courtesy photo)
Bob Odenkirk joins star-studded Festpocalypse gang

Virtual comedy benefit replaces SF Sketchfest this year

Most Read