Off To Work
It started off as a normal day. Delonda Walker got up, got ready, and arrived at the subway to make her way to work in Ybor City. Delonda was a manager at McDonald’s, it was an okay job, but it definitely wasn’t her first choice. She had dreams and aspirations far more extravagant than her job at McDonald’s, but it paid the bills.
But she never could have guessed 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.
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.
She Got To Work
It started off like any other working day. Delonda didn’t hate her job, but that didn’t mean that it was her passion. She had just finished a French literature degree at the University of Tampa and her dream was to become a researcher, but for now, she was happy to pay her bills.
She showed up at McDonald’s, put her uniform on, and got ready for a busy day at work. Delonda was the manager and was forced to deal with all kinds of things, but today would be a lot different than usual.
She worked the morning shift and they were situated in a busy area. This meant that a lot of people stopped there for breakfast and lunch every day.
In the span of a few months, she had gotten used to the familiar faces that would stop there on a regular basis. Each day blurred into the next but this day was drastically different.
That day, she noticed a customer she had never seen there before. But that was not the strange part, there was a lot more to it.
He had an eerie and disturbing aura about him and she couldn’t help the uneasy feeling in her stomach. One might’ve thought he was just one of the street people hanging around the area, but he was different. He carried himself in a way that suggested some kind of threat. Delonda couldn’t help but feel nervous.
She decided that it was best to brush it off. Why be sacred? What was the worst he could do in such a public and busy place? She kept telling herself that he was probably just some weird guy from the street.
He was a little creepy, but that was all. Or so she hoped. But that didn’t stop the uneasy feeling in her stomach. Something was wrong with this man.
Only Got Worse
He stepped closer to the counter and stared up at the menu above her head. She felt a shiver run down her spine as her blood ran cold.
She tried to get herself together and compose herself before asking him what he wanted. She waited for him to answer as the sense of eeriness only seemed to grow.
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.
In The Trash
He quickly threw a plastic bag into the trash and walked away. He approached the door and left the restaurant as soon as possible.
Delonda was confused. Was he pranking her? This was already one of the strangest shifts she had ever worked. She was curious to know what was in the bag. She approached the trashcan and looked inside. What she saw made her heart skip a beat.
What Was In The Bag?
She couldn’t believe what she saw. There was a gun inside the bag! Her stomach dropped and her heart began to race. Was he a criminal or maybe a creep? Perhaps he was a prankster.
She checked if the gun was loaded and found that 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.