The second day of Brandon Council’s jury trial in federal court gave further details on the days leading up to his arrest and an interview with authorities where he admitted to his crimes.
Council’s jury trial began this week in Florence. The Wilson, North Carolina, man is charged with gunning down Donna Major and Katie Skeen during a robbery at a CresCom Bank on Aug. 21, 2017. Major and Skeen both worked at the bank on 16th Avenue in Conway.
Council has been indicted on two counts in connection with the double homicide. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Jurors are tasked with determining if Council is guilty. If he is convicted, the jury will decide if they want to pursue the death penalty.
Witnesses called to the stand Wednesday included law enforcement and the general manager of a Baymont hotel.
Part of the day’s proceedings focused on what led to the double murder in addition to Council’s arrest on Aug. 23, 2017 in his home state.
Tamika Alston, front desk manager of the Conway Express Inn, testified a woman entered the hotel’s lobby on Aug. 15 and asked about a weekly rate.
Later, a North Carolina man came in to follow up on that conversation, renting the room for a week.
Alston said after that conversation, she didn’t see those two again and did not see Council.
The room was rented for a week, but was checked out of one day early, on Aug. 21.
The number of the room Alston testified the man rented was the same police ended up searching in connection with the double murder investigation.
Henry Tripp testified that Council spoke with him in August about purchasing a Mercedes-Benz. On Aug. 22, Council came to Pirate Auto Sales in Greenville, North Carolina, where he met with Tripp about the car.
Another man, Jalen Vines, also came to the dealership and the car was registered in Vines’ name. Tripp said Council handed him the cash for the purchase.
Mary Singh testified that on Aug. 23, Council and another man came to the Super 8 hotel in Greenville, North Carolina, where she and a desk clerk were working.
The man with Council tried to get a room but was not old enough (one has to be 21 to check a room out there).
Council tried to check out a room, but Singh said she remembered hearing his name on the news.
She told Council he was on the hotel’s “do not rent” list out of concern and he and the other person left.
She quickly called 911 and gave a description of Council and said he was in a car with two others at a gas station.
She also gave a description of the car and the direction the vehicle traveled when it left the gas station.
Council went to a Baymont hotel the same day, according to court testimony.
Officers arrived on scene and spoke with Council in the parking lot.
As shown in surveillance video footage the jury saw Wednesday, he was with a man and woman and had been in a white car.
Council tried to run away, but was apprehended following a foot chase, footage of which was shown to the jury.
After police took him into custody, they asked why he ran.
Council told law enforcement he had marijuana on him, which was found in his pocket, according to testimony. Council also said the car was not his.
He was taken to the local police department, where FBI agents responded and interviewed Council, who signed a consent form allowing authorities to search his cellphone and the Mercedes-Benz.
The jury Wednesday afternoon was shown the interview, which occurred around 3 p.m. on Aug. 23.
Then-FBI Special Agent Todd Richards asked Council most of the questions during the interview, and was joined by Special Agent Greg Coats.
“I want to talk, man,” Council said shortly after the agents entered the interview room.
Throughout the interview, Council displays different emotions — sometimes joking and smiling and other times crying and appearing distraught. He seemed emotionless in the courtroom Wednesday.
He explained what happened leading up to the double homicide.
He had been released from prison in November 2016 after spending six years behind bars. He stayed with his mother and stepfather for several months, both of whom he said he had a strained relationship with. He said his father is dead and that he has a son who was 12 at the time; the boy stays with his maternal grandmother.
Sometime in the weeks leading up to the deadly robbery, he robbed a Food Lion in Raleigh and got about $200.
Days later, he robbed a BB&T in his hometown of Wilson, stealing around $2,000.
Before that robbery, Council said, he was kicked out of his mother’s home.
He said he’d had a girlfriend whose car he had access to and that at one point gave her about $200.
After getting a text message from his mother saying the sheriff’s office had come by one morning and was looking for him, he fled and eventually headed to South Carolina to evade the police.
He gave a couple friends cocaine, marijuana and gas money and they got high on the way out of state. Prior to this, one of the friends had told Council he was planning to head to Georgia, Council said during the interview.
In Conway, Council gave one of his friends money to pay for the one-week stay at Conway Express Inn. He said the two people he was with left. Alone, he regularly ate at the nearby Hardee’s and spent some of remaining money he had on vodka.
The day of the murders, Council said, “I hurt some people that didn’t deserve it.”
“I did it,” he told the agents multiple times, referring to the robbery.
He said he had bought the .22-caliber gun he used from a stranger prior to the incident for about $40 and that there were already bullets in it.
Council said he knew he was going to shoot whoever was in the bank, doing so in hopes they wouldn’t be able to alert the authorities. He cursed when saying his decision-making pattern is messed up.
Council sobbed while asking if the two women he shot were killed. Initially, Richards told Council they were “hurt” but then confirmed the two died.
Council told the federal agents had things gone his way, he’d be dead as a result of a shootout with police.
“I’m a piece of [expletive],” he said, adding he believed he had shot each woman twice.
He took two sets of keys and their wallets, leaving the bank by using Skeen’s Chrysler and returning to the nearby hotel to get his belongings.
Council went to North Carolina and ran into an old girlfriend, who he said was a known prostitute.
He stayed at Heart of Wilson Motel in his hometown; Council explained someone the woman knew purchased the room rental after being paid $10.
Council later went to an inn in Greenville, North Carolina, and checked in under his name. The following day, he met Vines, a teen, at a plasma center. Council said in the interview he originally asked Vines’s brother to buy a car from Pirate Auto Sales using Council’s money, but he was reluctant.
After getting the car, Council said he partied with some friends. The day after was when he went to the Super 8 and Baymont hotels.
Council said during the interview, “I’m a doofus. I’m an idiot. I don’t deserve to live.”
He said while he felt sorry for committing the double murders, it was hard to apologize to anyone in that kind of situation.
Council likened the slain victims to “collateral damage.”
“Desperate and demonic” were the words he used to describe himself.