Testimony given Monday delved into Brandon Council’s childhood years during his trial in federal court.
A jury last week found Council guilty of two counts in relation to a deadly robbery at a CresCom Bank in Conway. The Wilson, North Carolina, man had been charged with gunning down Skeen and Donna Major during the robbery that occurred Aug. 21, 2017. Major and Skeen both worked at the bank on 16th Avenue. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Those who testified Monday included relatives and North Carolina natives who knew Council when he was a boy.
Nelson Battle of Wilson, North Carolina, testified he knew Council’s family, including his grandparents Earl and Bessie Spells, and went to church with them. Both of Council’s grandparents had leadership roles at Suggs Christian Temple Free Will Baptist Church.
He said at one point Council’s mother Beth, who had a position at the church, went before its board and asked for forgiveness as she had gotten pregnant.
He added Council as a child regularly attended church while his grandmother was still alive and was a nice, respectable boy.
After the church’s pastor resigned, Curtis Eugene Joyner took over. Battle testified Joyner was a known womanizer and he resigned when he was requested to. Joyner also ended up marrying Council’s mother.
Sherry Spells testified she married Council’s uncle and said Council’s mother seemed standoffish.
She said when Council’s mother married, Council was instructed never to tell anyone and was upset by this because he did not want to lie to his grandmother, described by several witnesses as a stern caretaker.
When his grandmother found out about what happened, Council told the truth and was called a liar and punished, according to court testimony.
Sherry Spells said Council’s mother worked a lot after Bessie Spells passed away and that Council's stepfather was rough on him and didn’t like him.
Council was said to be a preteen when his grandmother — who he lived with and was looked at as a mother figure who gave her grandson structure and rules — died of cancer, devastating him.
The area of Washington Street, the street his grandmother lived on, progressively got worse, with drugs, violence, prostitution being common there, according to testimony.
She said after Council grew older and was in his late teens or early 20s, he went to live with her in Raleigh, wanting to get out of Wilson, and was like a son to her.
Council worked at a local McDonald’s and did well, also acting as a big brother of sorts to her young grandson whose mother was stationed overseas as a member of the military, helping take care of him.
Once her daughter (her grandson’s mother) returned to the U.S. from Iraq, she received a call informing her she had been having problems. She decided to move to Kentucky to be with her, taking her grandson with her. She wept as she talked about how Council cried and begged her not to leave the day she departed for Kentucky.
She said Council’s mother married again to another man with the last name Joyner who disliked Council.
Spells’ daughter (and Council’s cousin) Ashley Spells testified she enjoyed playing with Council as a kid and lived with him and several others at his grandmother’s house at one point. She said Council was the favorite grandchild of his grandmother and played the drums at his church.
She said the family was close, often reuniting during holidays, before Bessie Spells’ death, adding the matriarch was the “glue” that held them all together. There was turmoil when her aunt and Council’s mother realized they were dating the same man, Eugene Joyner.
She said after Bessie Spells died, Council became withdrawn.
“He lost his mom,” she said, adding Council’s mother was more like an older sister and wasn’t known for being affectionate.
She said during her college years when she and Council were older and he lived in Raleigh he helped take care of her.
Former staffers at Toisnot Middle School, which Council attended, also testified.
Tammy Proctor said she was one of Council’s teachers when he was in the sixth grade. She described him as being happy and outgoing at the time as well as energetic and well-mannered.
Council wasn’t known as a troublemaker and others noticed a change in him and his sadness following his grandmother’s passing.
A report showing some of Council’s test results displayed he scored high for both reading and math, which former assistant principal Robert Reeves said showed he was a candidate for higher education.
Samantha Arrington said she was Council’s middle school “sweetheart” and that he was a caring person who liked video games, dressed neat and was there for her during a tough time in her life.
During one point in Council’s life after his grandma died and when he was still a child, police found he had been living in a friend’s garage because he was homeless, according to testimony.
Council is being tried in Florence. Now that Council has been convicted, the trial has reached the penalty phase, which gives the prosecution and defense another opportunity to present evidence. Jurors will consider different factors and are tasked with deciding whether Council is sentenced to either death or life in prison without the possibility of release.
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