A 24-year-old man who graduated from St. John’s University in Queens earlier this year was arrested on Tuesday and charged with the murder of four people in Seminole Heights, FL.
Howell “Trai” Donaldson III, who attended the Fresh Meadows university from 2011 through 2017, is responsible for fatally shooting four people whose ages ranged from 20 through 60, according to Tampa Bay Police. Seminole Heights residents had been on edge for more than a month after Donaldson’s first crime, and cops warned residents not to walk outside alone at night.
Donaldson majored in sports management and was a walk-on on the men’s basketball team in 2011, according to the Daily News.
He moved back to Florida after graduation and was working at a McDonald’s in the area, according to Tampa Bay Police. The murders were committed between Oct. 9 and Nov. 14, and Donaldson used a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson in each murder. According to Police Chief Brian Dugan, the department received more than 5,000 tips in this case.
On Nov. 28 at about 2:40 p.m., Donaldson walked into a McDonald’s and handed his co-worker, Delonda Walker, a paper bag and told her not to look into it, according to the Tampa Bay Times. When Donaldson walked out of the store, Walker looked into the bag and saw a gun.
She spotted a police officer in the fast-food restaurant and handed the bag over to her. The officer than called for backup and police brought Donaldson in for questioning. Police charged Donaldson with four counts of premeditated murder.
Donaldson was charged for the murder of Benjamin Mitchell, 22, who was killed on Oct. 9 at about 9 p.m. On Oct. 11, he shot Monica Hoffa, 32, and her body was found on Oct. 13. Anthony Naiboa, 20, was killed on Oct. 19 at approximately 8 p.m. His last victim, 60-year-old Ronald Felton, was killed on Nov. 14 at 4:51 a.m.
A spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said Donaldson has one sealed arrest from 2014. He would not comment on whether the District Attorney’s office had opened an investigation into other possible murders Donaldson may have committed in New York.
Friends of Donaldson told the Tampa Bay Times they were shocked when they heard the news. The Tampa native returned home once he graduated in January and worked as a customer support representative at Ultimate Medical Academy before he was fired for not showing up regularly.
Tyler Gimbert, his childhood friend, said the murders “just didn’t make sense.”
“My mom always commended him for his manners and likability, and she still says he was the most likable kid that you could possibly ask for,” Gimbert told the Tampa Bay Times. “[She] started to tear up on the phone when I told her. My dad too.”
Donaldson is being held without bond and his next court hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.