Documents: Suspect viewed porn after random Tampa killings
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Newly released public records in the case of a man accused of terrorizing a Tampa neighborhood by randomly slaying four people show he visited porn sites on his cellphone after three of the shootings.
Suspect Howell Donaldson’s iPhone data showed a “significant amount of Internet activity” close to the deaths in fall 2017, the Tampa Bay Times reported .
That detail emerged from more than 1,500 pages of investigative reports and audio recordings released late Friday by prosecutors in response to the paper’s public records request. The records also described behavioral changes that troubled Donaldson’s on-again, off-again girlfriend.
Police have previously acknowledged that they used Donaldson’s cellphone to establish his location at the time of the killings, which began Oct. 9 and ended Nov. 14. Donaldson has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, and prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.
In a discussion of the adult site, police noted 269 “Internet activities” between Oct. 5 and Nov. 4. The website name is redacted. Donaldson’s defense attorneys had objected to publicly releasing some investigative materials, including the website name.
In a warrant, a Tampa police sergeant described the site as a place where customers could view others in sexually themed situations and interact with models privately.
“In summary, Howell Donaldson showed a pattern of visiting this adult-themed website after committing three homicides,” the warrant said.
The records also portrayed Donaldson, now 25, as a man whose behavioral changes had begun to trouble Nicole Minnis, who had been in a relationship with Donaldson that ended in 2013.
She told investigators he unexpectedly returned to Tampa in August 2017 and told her he had lost his job. On Nov. 11, he called from a hotel and said he needed a place to stay.
Documents said he stayed with Minnis and her mother, but they were shocked to see him in a McDonald’s uniform with all his belongings in trash bags. He told them he was trying to get back on his feet.
Donaldson was arrested Nov. 28 after police said he handed a bag containing a handgun to a co-worker at a McDonald’s restaurant near the neighborhood where the four victims were shot.
The documents also reveal that Donaldson was chatty with detectives, but then clammed up when they began showing him photos of the victims.
“The people I showed you,” a detective said as papers shuffled. “Decent people. Okay? That’s a 60-year-old man that was out feeding the homeless. That’s an autistic kid, okay, that missed his bus. This young woman, 30 years old, was merely walking from her aunt’s place. All right? Just down the road, in her neighborhood. And this young man right here was waiting at a bus. To go pick up his girlfriend and make sure she got home safely. Decent people. People like you.”
Sitting in the back of a patrol with his hands handcuffed in front of his body, Donaldson, who had spent five years at St. John’s University in New York, told officers he was trying to leave town.
“I’m just trying to get out of here so I can go back to school,” he said.
He suggested that officers take him to the airport.
“I’m just trying to get my education and further my career,” he said. “I just want to do good in the world.”