Sign language fraudster crashes police briefing on serial killer suspect (video)

BY KAT SHEPHERD / DECEMBER 6, 2017 /

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A person reported to be a career criminal posed as a sign language interpreter and was allowed to take the stage at a live press conference announcing a major arrest in Tampa, Florida. According to WRAL, most of what the “interpreter” communicated on live TV was gibberish as Tampa police announced the arrest of a man suspected in at least four murders.

The woman has been identified as Derlyn Roberts, a career criminal with at least 31 cases on her record, who just got out of prison last year, after serving years behind bars for organized fraud. She presented herself as a qualified deaf interpreter and no one even questioned her credentials.

WRAL reports:

Hearing-impaired people tuning in to a news conference about the arrest of a suspected serial killer got a message of gibberish from an American Sign Language interpreter.

As Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan announced the arrest of Howell Donaldson Wednesday night, interpreter Derlyn Roberts was there beside him, making signs that made no sense.

“She sat up there and waved her arms like she was singing Jingle Bells,” Rachell Settambrino, who is deaf and teaches American Sign Language at the University of South Florida, told the Tampa Bay Times through an interpreter.

Settambrino says that while the chief was giving a timeline of the four shootings, and describing the 5,000 tips the agency received leading to the arrest, what the woman signed was: “Fifty-one hours ago, zero 12 22 (indecipherable) murder three minutes in 14 weeks ago in old (indecipherable) murder four five 55,000 plea 10 arrest murder bush (indecipherable) three age 24.”

“I was disappointed, confused, upset and really want to know why the city of Tampa’s chief of police, who is responsible for my safety … did not check her out,” Settambrino said.

Steve Hegarty, spokesman for a Tampa Police Department, said Roberts showed up and told him she was there to provide the sign language interpretation at the Nov. 28 news conference. Assuming someone else at the department had called her in, he allowed her on the stage.

“I allowed her to do it. I didn’t ask enough questions,” Hegarty said.

Police don’t know why she volunteered to interpret or how she knew about the press conference.

“I don’t know what motivates her,” Hegarty said. “I would like to know both professionally, and also personally, how did it occur to you to come down to do that?” 

The press conference announced the arrest of Howell “Trai” Donaldson III, 24,  in connection to the deaths of four people in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa in October and November. Donaldson was arrested at the end of November and stands accused of the seemingly random murders of Anthony Naiboa, Monica Hoffa, Benjamin Mitchell and Ronald Felton. All of the victims were shot and killed in separate incidents while they were alone at night in the neighborhood.