"We are going to use every avenue at our disposal to obtain the most available evidence", said Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren.
Circuit Judge Margaret Taylor set a new court date of January 5, when the Donaldsons will have to explain their refusal to answer questions.
The parents were being interviewed in separate rooms Tuesday when they refused to continue answering questions. "That's the objective of this motion ultimately; that's our intent and our hope they would comply and answer our questions".
Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner told the judge that the state believes there is no privilege that allows the Donaldsons to avoid answering questions, which is what prosecutors were seeking when they requested the hearing.
On Thursday, a Hillsborough County judge ordered his parents, Rosita Donaldson and Howell Donaldson Jr., to show cause on why they should not be held in contempt for refusing provide testimony to state prosecutors Tuesday, despite being served with a subpoena ordering them to do so, according to court documents.
Florida law protects spouses from having to testify against one another, but parents don't have that same immunity in cases involving their children.
Fernandez says he feels he's protecting the Donaldsons from having to go through more emotional pain by having to speak and he feels they're justified in not wanting to say anything that could help the state sentence their son to death.
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. "Not only the personal tragedy, but they have extended their condolences repeatedly to the victims that suffered greatly". He described their situation as "tough" and "complex".
Fernandez says it is unreasonable to expect parents to be able to testify against their son. Investigators later matched the firearm to the same weapon used in a string of fatal shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood between October 9 and November 14. 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. Donaldson waived a formal hearing on his pretrial detention, so he will be held without bond for the charges, according to a court order released Monday. He has not yet entered a plea.
Any type of exchange won't take place in open court though. The prosecutor's office has reached out to the families of the victims to inform them that the charges were filed, he said.
"It's implicit ... that they want something from them that will flawless the case so that, perhaps, their son is executed and it's one of these concepts that is very hard for any parent", Fernandez said of the state.
"I prayed for those families when it first started", Rosita Donaldson said, holding back tears. "And we question why".