Authorities found several items in a Mercedes-Benz Brandon Council paid for — including a loaded revolver and a pillowcase containing thousands of dollars — according to evidence presented during his trial in federal court.
The Wilson, North Carolina, man’s jury trial began this week in Florence. Council 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.
The prosecution rested Thursday afternoon, which allows to defense to present evidence.
Judge R. Bryan Harwell denied the defense’s motion to dismiss all counts of the indictment.
Witnesses called to the stand by the feds Thursday included FBI personnel.
After Council’s arrest at a hotel in Greenville, North Carolina, two days after the murders, the FBI processed and collected evidence from a white Chrysler and a white Mercedes-Benz, according to court testimony.
Skeen’s Chrysler 200 had been stolen from the bank parking lot right after the deadly robbery.
A Mercedes-Benz was purchased from a Greenville, North Carolina, dealership the next day. That car was registered in Jalen Vines’ name and Council handed Bill Tripp the money for the purchase, according to court testimony.
Authorities found few items inside the Chrysler.
Inside the Mercedes-Benz, law enforcement found a pillowcase containing over $10,000 in addition to a loaded revolver in the trunk and a box with .22-caliber ammunition.
Additionally, cops found a vanity license plate; the Chrysler appeared to have had a tag removed from the front of it, according to testimony.
Law enforcement found a blue collared shirt that appeared to match the one worn by Council during the deadly robbery.
Also found was a wallet with a note inside that stated, “This is a robbery” and demanded cooperation. The note seemed to demand $20,000 and contained instructions to not set off any alarms.
It also requested car keys, and contained a threat to kill whoever read the note if they did not cooperate.
The jury also watched several clips of security footage captured by cameras at Conway Express Inn, where prosecutors said Council stayed before committing the robbery.
Mike Connelly with the FBI testified Council is the man in the footage shown walking in and out of a room at the inn during the days leading up to the murders and interacting with others at the hotel.
Council walked to the bank and shot Major and Skeen after 1 p.m. Aug. 21, taking the victims’ car keys and fleeing in the Chrysler. Council returned to the inn briefly to get his things and left the area.
Three projectiles were probed by authorities and marked as being from a wall, Skeen’s chest and Major’s chest. There were also metal fragments marked as being from Skeen’s brain and Major’s brain.
Edward Proctor of Grand Strand Medical Center testified as an expert witness in forensic pathology. The doctor said he performed autopsies for the two victims, which concluded Major had been shot in each of her arms and in the head and that Skeen’s side and head were struck by gunfire.
An witness who testified as an expert in firearms identification said the bullets shared class characteristics with the revolver.
Shortly before, there was a dispute over the witness saying the bullets came from the gun. The judge approved the defense’s request asking that statement be stricken from the record, meaning the jury was asked to disregard it.
The trial will continue Friday morning.