The days leading up to Brandon Council’s arrest in North Carolina, including the day of the deadly CresCom bank robbery in Conway, were detailed by testimony Thursday during his trial in federal court.
A jury on Tuesday found Council guilty of two counts in relation to the robbery. The Wilson, North Carolina, man had been charged with gunning down Skeen and Donna Major during the incident that occurred Aug. 21, 2017. Major and Skeen both worked at the bank on 16th Avenue. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Mohan Patel, the general manager of an Economy Inn in Greenville, North Carolina, was the first of several witnesses the prosecution called to the stand Thursday.
Video surveillance footage shown to the jury displayed Council at the hotel’s front desk and handing over money the evening of the murders. Patel testified Council rented a room there for two nights.
Greenville native Brandon Black said the morning of Aug. 22, 2017, he went to a plasma center with his younger brother Jalen Vines.
Once there, he said, Council — who he didn’t know — approached them, and offered $100 to get a car registered in one of their names that Council would pay for.
Black wasn’t interested and went inside while his brother stayed outside and talked to Council. After donating plasma, Black noticed his brother had left and checked to see if he was OK.
Vines told him he was fine and Black went to work. Around midnight, he went to a local hotel, where his brother, Council and two females (one being Vines' girlfriend) were.
He said he could tell the people in the hotel room had been smoking marijuana.
People in the room drank alcohol, smoked, played cards and watched the movie “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.”
After about an hour, he, his brother and his brother's girlfriend left while Council and the other female stayed.
Vines also testified, speaking on how he went with Council to acquire the Mercedes-Benz from Pirate Auto Sales after meeting him at the nearby plasma center.
Vines said Council gave him the $100 offered. After getting insurance for the vehicle, the two went to a pawn shop. Vines bought a video game controller and he said Council looked at some handguns and ammunition.
They went to a GameStop, where Vines purchased some video games, and Walmart, where Council bought a necklace, before heading to a local mall.
Outside the mall, Vines said he took a photo of Council to send to his girlfriend; she testified Thursday that Vines had asked her to find a friend for his cousin.
The image that was shown to the jury showed Council smiling and holding cash while standing near the white Mercedes-Benz.
That day, the two also went to a sporting goods store, where some ammunition was purchased.
Vines said Council told him he had a gun and kept it for protection. They went by a store and Council bought a bottle of cognac.
Also that day, the two of them talked about having a “trap house” where drugs could be sold.
After picking up Vines’ girlfriend and a friend of hers, Council paid for more alcohol and cigars; some wraps were also bought, according to court testimony.
The four of them went to Economy Inn.
At one point, Vines went to see his grandmother in the hospital but later returned. His brother eventually hung out with the four in the hotel room.
Surveillance footage was shown to the jury showing Council and others at the hotel.
The next day, Vines said, he met with Council, who told him he’d had sex with the female who stayed with him. The two rode around with her.
They went to a Super 8 hotel but couldn’t get a room. They also went to a store, where Council got a cellphone.
They went to a Baymont hotel and were told they would have to wait until 3 p.m. to check in.
Cops arrived at the parking lot and asked the two to put their hands up. Vines complied and Council ran, eventually being apprehended.
Vines said during the brief period he hung out with him, Council was relaxed and calm, though they argued at times.
Mike Connelly with the FBI testified once again, saying surveillance footage showed Vines and Council cleaning Skeen’s Chrysler that was at the hotel.
During Thursday’s proceedings, the jury was also shown Council’s birth certificate, indicating he was 32 at the time of the murders.
Council’s trial began last week 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.