Loved ones shed tears Wednesday as they described Katie Skeen as a caring wife, mother, daughter and friend during the penalty phase of Brandon Council’s trial in federal court.
A jury on Tuesday 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.
Tracy Skeen said he met his future wife after accompanying his friend on a blind date one day. His friend’s date had told him about a friend of hers, and the two were introduced soon after.
Weeping, he said Katie Skeen was his “soulmate” and a fun person who was full of life.
The jury was shown different photos, including one of Tracy Skeen and Katie Skeen on their wedding day.
Tracy Skeen said his spouse had been a doting daughter and affectionate mother to her two sons Noah and River.
“Those two boys were her everything,” he said.
He often stopped by the bank when she worked, whether it was to bring her a Mountain Dew or eat lunch with her.
He said she was involved in a lot of charitable efforts.
The weekend before the murders, the two served as chaperones for a church youth trip.
On the day of the murders, he had spoken to Katie Skeen on the phone.
Later, his phone received several calls. His preacher called him, asking if he had spoken to his wife and telling him the bank had been robbed.
Tracy Skeen said he tried calling his wife. When there was no answer, he knew something was wrong.
He went to Conway, and authorities asked him to go to the police department. Once he got to the police station, he was told what had happened.
In an Instagram post, Noah Skeen talked about his mother.
“You were my everything,” part of the post said.
“You never realize what coming home and being with your mom is really like until you no longer can.”
Katie Skeen’s mother Betty Davis said her daughter was a pleasant and happy child, the apple of her father’s eye.
She said as a child Katie Skeen would come with her to a store she worked at.
“Everyone loved her,” she said of her co-workers.
She sobbed as she told a prosecutor that she regretted not telling her daughter how proud she was of her.
Davis said the day of the murders her husband John left for Conway, having heard from Tracy Skeen that Katie Skeen had been shot. Eventually, Betty Davis also headed to the city with River Skeen.
Betty Davis said her daughter’s death was devastating. Family dinners are no longer the same.
Patricia Floyd said Katie Skeen was like a younger sister to her, and the two would do things like shop.
Years ago, she hired Katie Skeen as a teller at Coastal Federal Bank, where she excelled with her leadership skills, infectious smile and “can-do attitude.”
The weeks after the murders were filled with shock, disbelief, sadness and anger, she said, detailing how painful Katie Skeen’s death has been for her family.
Noah Skeen’s grades have suffered and he’s been angry and lost.
She also recalled how River Skeen consoled loved ones after his mother’s death.
Floyd, who the Skeens’ kids called “Aunt Patty,” made a promise to her friend to take care of everyone.
Laura Davis said she met Katie Skeen at a high school reunion. The two became close in 2016 after the death of her teen son Miles.
Katie Skeen played an integral role in the establishing of Miles for Miles Foundation, raising funds and the development of an annual scholarship given in Miles Davis’ name.
She recalled how Katie Skeen brought several people together to show support for her daughter Faith when she took part in the Conway SuperStars competition one year.
Weeks after Katie Skeen’s death, she sent a text message to her friend’s phone, saying, “I miss you every day.”
Two robberies in North Carolina that Council admitted to committing ahead of the murders were also discussed during Wednesday’s testimony, as an employee of each business that was robbed testified.
On Aug. 8, 2017, a Food Lion in Raleigh was robbed of a few hundred dollars. Three days later, a BB&T in Council’s hometown of Wilson was robbed of more than $2,000; a note was used in that robbery.
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.