One of the most intense dragnets in city history ended Tuesday with a tip to a police officer sitting in a McDonald’s doing her paperwork. The investigation raced from there. A 24-year-old man was taken in for questioning. Crime tape went up. Officers descended on the Ybor City fast food joint, then a family home in Sulphur Springs. Television cameras stood watch. So did residents, wondering what it all meant. Anxious relatives of the victims waited for the news: Was an arrest finally at hand? That night, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told the city that the six-week hunt for the Seminole Heights serial killer was over. Howell Emanuel Donaldson III was arrested on four counts of first-degree murder. He is accused of shooting and killing three men and one woman as they made their way along their own neighborhood streets. The first to die was Benjamin Mitchell, 22, on Oct. 9. About two days later, Monica Hoffa, 32, was shot and killed. On Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, 20, was gunned down. The last victim, Ronald Felton, 60, was slain on Nov. 14. Earlier that day, Dugan cautioned that this new avenue of the investigation was just starting, that police had been let down by tips before. Later, he admitted sensing that this time would be different. "It just felt right," Dugan said at the Tuesday night news conference. "I kind of had a feeling that we were going to get a break." • • • The break police were waiting for came around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. That’s when Donaldson showed up at the McDonald’s at 2101 E 13th Ave, where drivers exit Interstate 4 to reach historic E Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. McDonald’s employee Gail Rodgers said Donaldson had worked there for just two months. He was wearing his McDonald’s uniform and showed up in a red Mustang, possibly his father’s car.
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Tampa Bay Times | Nov 29