Judge warns accused serial killer's parents: Cooperate or explain why not

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The parents of the accused Seminole Heights killer will appear before a Tampa judge on Thursday.

Tampa attorney and legal expert Anthony Rickman told FOX 13 it's unusual for parents to be called in for questioning, but it's not unheard of.

Ralph Fernandez, an attorney for the couple, said they haven't slept much since their son was arrested November 28 and charged with four counts of first-degree murder for the apparently random shootings that began in early October in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood. The parents of Donaldson will go before a judge Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, after refusing to answer questions about their son.

Taylor, citing case law from a Miami-area judge, ordered the parents to appear in court January 5, 2018, to show cause as to why they should not be held in civil contempt. "And when that duty is explained to them by a judge, theyre willing to provide us answers".

Today, Judge Margaret Taylor made a point to ask prosecutors whether their goal was to compel the Donaldsons to cooperate, or to punish them for their refusal to do so.

"I think its important to safeguard these truly significant family values in this time of tremendous family stress", he said.

This file booking photo provided by the Tampa Police Department, Fla., on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, shows Howell Emanuel Donaldson, the suspect in a string of four slayings that terrorized a Tampa neighborhood. We will not testify against their son.

"I'm not suggesting they have any direct knowledge, but I'm not suggesting they don't", he said. He was detained after a co-worker told police that Donaldson handed her a bag with a gun inside and told her to watch it for him.

On Wednesday afternoon, Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren said his office is doing everything possible to put forth the strongest case possible and part of that is getting certain questions answered from the Donaldsons.

Ralph Fernandez, the attorney representing the parents, said the family has been devastated since their sons arrest.

If the parents do say anything it will be a statement, in part saying, "our lives were flawless until November the 28".