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Parents of Tampa serial murders suspect they refuse to answer questions

TAMPA, Fla. – The parents of the 24-year-old man suspected of a series of fatal shootings that terrorized a Florida neighborhood will go before a judge on Thursday after refusing to answer questions about his son

The Tampa Bay Times reports that investigators wanted to question Howell Donaldson Jr. and Rosita Donaldson on Tuesday about Howell Emanuel Donaldson III's background, development history, gun ownership and mood. But they refused, revealing only the names, addresses and dates of birth of the family members.

"This is a rarity," said state prosecutor Andrew Warren. "Because most people understand that they have a duty to answer questions, and when a judge explains that duty, they are willing to give us answers."

The couple must appear before Hillsborough County Magistrate Margaret Taylor during a hearing at 10 a.m. M. To determine if they should be considered contempt.

Young Donaldson faces four counts of first-degree murder in the seemingly random shootout in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood that began in early October. He was arrested on November 28.

In motions filed Wednesday, the state attorney's office said the parents' refusal to testify despite receiving a subpoena authorized by the court constitutes indirect criminal contempt.

The newspaper reports that on Tuesday, Andrew Shafii, one of the two attorneys who accompanied Rosita Donaldson, told prosecutors that neither parent would testify.

Harmon started asking questions to establish a record.

Rosita Donaldson said that she and her husband have a daughter of 28 and a 13-year-old son. She said her son had a good relationship with his two grandparents and that the family had frequent meetings around the holidays.

"Thanksgiving everyone was in our house," he said.

Then his lawyer interrupted him, saying that if she wanted to refuse to speak she needed to say no. Harmon then asked if she would continue.

"No," she said. "With all due respect, I do not answer any more questions."

Ralph Fernandez, who represents the Donaldsons, said the parents are devastated, adding that his refusal to answer questions was intended to prevent further emotional pain. [19659002] "If one of the parents is asked to testify against his son, what would he do?" I still believe in a United States that respects this great family value, "Fernandez told CBS affiliate, WTSP.

But Warren said that they are only being questioned as part of the investigation.

"We are not only trying to put together a case against the accused, we are trying to ask ourselves why: a question that the families of the victims and the community deserve to have answered," said Warren.

Court records indicate that parents have been granted immunity "by Florida law."

Unlike some states, Florida does not have any law that establishes the "father and son privilege," which would maintain confidential communications between them. [19659002] Wednesday, the families of the victims Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton met with the state prosecutor to discuss whether the state should apply for the death penalty, WTSP reports.

Casimar Naiboa told the WTSP that he wants death penalty. Prosecutors have said they can follow him if he agrees with the wishes of the families.

"The death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst," Warren told the Tampa Bay Times, "and, in general, a killer series would qualify."

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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