It started like any other day. Delonda Walker got up, got dressed, and had her cup of coffee before arriving at the subway. She was on her way to work in Ybor City. She was a manager at McDonald’s and although it was a decent job, it wasn’t her first choice. But it paid the bills.
But she had no idea that on this day, she would cross paths with one of the biggest criminals in Florida history.
Change Of Plans
Routine is something that often gets taken for granted. Most people hope that their jobs will always stay the same; that they will follow the same process and talk to the same people, but often, routines change. (thetelegramnews.com)
Unfortunately, these routines can be interrupted by brutal and eerie parts of life that most of us would rather be unaware of. That was the case in this story.
Just Another Day At McDonald’s?
It all started as a normal day. Delonda didn’t dread her job, but she wasn’t passionate about it either. She had studied French literature at the University of Tampa; and while her dream was to start a career in research, so far, she was happy enough to be able to pay the bills.
So she arrived at the local McDonald’s where she was a manager, put on her uniform, and got ready for another day at work. But this day was different.
An Unexpected Customer
Hers was the morning shift. Her store was situated in a busy area, so most of the customers were people that worked around there and stopped by to grab breakfast or lunch.
In just a matter of months, she had gotten used to most of the faces she usually saw on a daily basis. There were a lot of regular clients, so each day kind of blurred into the next. However, this one would be drastically different.
He Had A Creepy Aura
This time, she noticed a new customer that she had never seen before. This would not need to be anything too strange on its own. But there was more to it.
The new client had some sort of eerie, disturbing aura around him. Maybe just one of the street people that used to hang around that area, one might think. But this one was different. He did not only look weird and out of place; the way he carried himself also suggested some kind of threat. Just seeing him enter the door, was enough to make Delonda feel nervous.
What Was Going On?
But she brushed it off. Why would she be scared anyway? What’s the worse thing that could happen? It was probably just some weird dude from the street.
A bit creepy, but that was probably about it, or so she hoped. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong with this man.
She Did Her Best To Remain Calm
When the guy got close to the counter and stared at the menu above her head, Delonda felt a shiver going through her spine.
But she tried her best to compose herself and ask the man what he wanted. As she waited for him to answer, that sense of eerieness kept making her feel uneasy.
He finally gave her his order and she felt relieved. At least their interaction would end soon. All she had to do was take the payment, hand him his food and then watch him walk out the door.
He paid in cash and accepted his order. But instead of leaving, he did something that Delonda was not expecting.
He Threw A Mysterious Bag
With a rapid gesture, the creepy man threw a plastic bag in the trash; then, he quickly walked towards the door and got out of the restaurant.
Delonda was puzzled. Was this some sort of prank? It had already been one of the weirdest shifts in a long time. She decided to go to the trashcan and look inside the bag. What she saw made her heart skip a beat.
It Was A Gun
There was a gun inside the bag! Delonda’s stomach dropped, and her heart started racing. Was that man a criminal? Was he just a creep or a prankster?
She checked if the weapon was loaded; it was. She was scared like never before in her life and Immediately, reported the incident to the police.
The Police Steps In
Soon enough, a police car pulled up to Delonda’s McDonald’s, picked up the weapon, asked Delonda some questions about how the man who gave it to her looked, and went back to the station.
For the next few days, Delonda felt anxious, wondering who that creepy man with the gun was. Not long after, she received a fateful call.
It Was The Police
It was the Tampa Police Department. They had been conducting an investigation about the man with the gun, and they thought they had caught him. He was detained at the station at this moment.
They just needed Delonda to come to the station and confirm that he was the same man she had seen at McDonald’s. She went over and, sure enough, it was him.
A Tense Moment?
Delonda felt a bit shaken just seeing his face again. Even though she pointed him out from behind a one-way mirror, his creepy aura was still palpable.
Without hesitation, Delonda pointed him out. Even though she knew he could not see her, Delonda could not help but like he was watching her somehow. His eyes were filled with rage and he was staring in her direction.
The Long Wait
After the line up, Delonda faced an agonizing wait. Left sitting in the station’s waiting area, Delonda still had no idea who the man was or what she had gotten herself mixed up in.
The time ticked by and Delonda became more nervous by the minute. After what like an eternity, the lead officer on the case, Detective Sergeant Jeremy Williams came to get her.
The News Was Chilling
Officer Williams had a very grave look on his face when he approached Delonda. He escorted her into his office and asked her to take a seat.
Facing her, his expression had turned to stone and was now unreadable. When he spoke, his words were chilling as he said, “Delonda, the man you identified is a dangerous criminal.”
It Got Worse
Delonda was still reeling from this news when she noticed that Sergeant Williams was still staring intently at her. At that moment, cold dread passed through her once more.
As if this revelation wasn’t scary enough, she could tell that he wasn’t done. What he told her next, terrified her to her core.
It Was Terrifying
Delonda was startled enough just to know that a dangerous criminal had been in her store with a loaded weapon. Her mind couldn’t help but go through all the worst-case scenarios of just how much worse things could have been.
Now it seemed that there was something even worse about this man. With bated breath, Delonda listened to the news, unable to fully comprehend what she was hearing.
Detective Williams calmly explained that not only was this man a dangerous criminal. He was the lead suspect in a serial killer case. The words “serial killer” rung in Delonda’s ears. Her body began to tremble with fear now.
So many questions plagued her. Would he know it was her that pointed him out? Did he remember what she looked like? Would he be released? Could he come back to the store?
Detective Williams did his best to reassure Delonda that she would be okay after he saw how afraid she became after hearing the news.
He explained that this man was the likely perpetrator that had been terrifying the wider Tampa area for some time now. The police had been gathering evidence against him, but for now, it was all circumstantial.
Who Was He?
Detective Williams explained that the suspect was Howell Emanuel Donaldson III. He was a graduate from St. John’s University in New York. He had been a walk-on student-athlete for the men’s basketball team
Living in Tampa for over a year now, it seems that Howell had a darker side that no one knew.
The evidence had been mounting against him, but for now, it still wasn’t enough.
Detective Williams went on to explain that they had retrieved and went through the camera footage from the store.
Unfortunately, due to a blindspot at the crucial spot, there was no actual footage of Howell throwing the bag into the trash. That meant there was only one way to build a case.
Delonda was already more than shaken by the entire ordeal. Detective Williams was doing his best to keep her calm. Her stress levels took a turn for the worse after that.
Detective Williams even seemed nervous now as he knew he had a crucial request to ask of her. When he did, Delonda’s jaw dropped with fear.
She Didn’t Want To Do It
Explaining that as she was the only material witness that could tie the suspect to the gun, Delonda had become the police’s most vital asset in the case.
She knew what was coming he could even ask but also knew she wanted no part of it. Delonda was going to have to testify against the suspect in court.
She Had No Choice
Detective Williams did his best to set her mind at ease. He explained that without her testimony, the suspect would have to be released and that meant that he would be out there again.
Eventually, realizing she had no choice, Delonda relented. Now there was just one more crucial question remaining that she had to ask. Without it, she was too afraid to help.
Delonda clearly felt her safety was at risk if she took part in this case. Detective Williams assured her that he would do everything to protect her.
That part didn’t worry her so much. She was educated enough to know how the legal system worked. The crucial question to her was, would he be out on bail while the trial went on?
She Had To Do It
Detective Williams explained that if she gave a statement that set out what she had witnessed in the store, that together with her willingness to testify, would be enough to oppose his bail.
Delonda felt a little better but was still extremely nervous about it all. Thinking of the victims, she realized she had a duty to do this for them. She finally agreed.
As Detective Williams promised, her statement was enough to have the suspect’s bail denied. Now the long wait for the trial begun.
Delonda felt afraid and paranoid the entire time but was determined to do her part and help close this case. This man was a monster and needed to face justice. Before long, the trial commenced.
Delonda was given strict instructions by the prosecutors not to talk to any other witnesses in the case or discuss the case with anyone outside of the courtroom.
She sat through the initial proceedings. When Howell Emanuel Donaldson first appeared in court, she never looked at him. The case started and she heard testimony of how he had a bright future but had lost his way. It was finally her time to testify.
It Was Time
Despite her fears, Delonda faced him without fear and recounted in detail how she had seen him dumping the bag in the trash. The testimony was enough to tie him to the gun.
The gun was already tied to other murders and between all of this, it was enough to finally convict Howell Emanuel Donaldson III. He was sentenced to life and Delonda was finally free of the horrible ordeal.
Back To Work
Delonda never forgot this incident and even after returning to work often thought about it. After her bravery went public, many people complimented her courage.
One woman in particular learned of her ambitions and awarded her a check for $9,000.00 do Delonda could finish her studies. In the end, her bravery changed her life and she was hailed as a hero.