FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The second day of Brandon Council’s death penalty trial for a deadly 2017 CresCom bank robbery focused on what Council did after leaving South Carolina.
Prosecutors brought a total of 8 witnesses on Tuesday who talked about their encounters with Council following the robbery.
Tomeka Austin, who worked at the Conway Express Inn, was called as a witness. Council had stayed at the hotel days before the robbery. Austin said she never really had an encounter with Council, just with two other individuals, one male and one female, who inquired about a weekly stay priced at $350. In footage from an interview Council did with FBI Agents, we learned Council gave the male money to book the room.
Henry Tripp, an autosalesman in Greenville, North Carolina followed Austin’s testimony. He said he sold Council a 1996 Mercedes Benz at Pirate’s Auto Sales for $3,400, which Council paid for in cash on August 22, 2017. But, Council couldn’t drive the vehicle off the property due to not having a driver’s license. In Council’s interview with FBI, he tells them he met an 18-year-old named Jalen Vines at a plasma center across the street from the dealership, who agrees to put the car in his name. Council pays Vines $100 for the favor and said Vines would stay with him until the moment he was captured by police.
On the same day, Council and Vines book a room at Economy Lodge in Greenville where they invite three other people to hangout. Council said they smoked marijuana and played cards. The next day, August 23, 2017, Council decided he wanted to get a different hotel with a pool. He decides to first try the Super 8 Hotel in Greenville.
Mary Singh, who worked at the Super8, testified on behalf of the hotel. Singh said Vines tried to rent a two night stay, but since he was under 21, he was unable to do so. Council returned to his vehicle to get his ID to rent the room, and Sing said she went back to her computer because Council’s name sounded familiar. When she searched Council’s name, Singh said she remembered he was the man wanted for a crime in South Carolina. Singh said she told Council she couldn’t rent a room to him and made up a false excuse saying he’s on a “do not rent” list. Council then left, and Singh said she called police in Greenville to let them know Council was in the area, and gave them his description.
At that point, several officers had already heard the call and one happened to be nearby named William Slaughter. Prosecutors brought him in to testify.
William Slaughter, said he was on his lunch break driving on Memorial Boulevard when he receives the call and happened to drive right beside Council and looked into his vehicle. Slaughter made a quick turn and positions his vehicle at a location where he can watch the Mercedes until back up arrives.
As Slaughter waited for backup, Council said they were headed to the Baymont Inn off Memorial Drive in Greenville in an attempt to get a different hotel room. They requested a smoking room, but were told there wasn’t one and left. Rodrigo Pyramid, who is the manager at the hotel, testified as a hotel witness.
Greenville police arrived at the Baymont Inn shortly after Council and Vines left the hotel, according to testimony from Officer Slaughter, Officer Tyler Waley and Officer Jeremiah Lovelace. Waley and Lovelace testified in court also, and said they were the ones who captured Council outside the hotel. According to both officers, Council ran for a short period but Waley was able to tackle him quickly. When asked why he ran, Council said he had marijuana in his pocket. We learned it was about 7 grams. During the remanding moments of his arrest, officers said he was cooperative and didn’t disrespect them not once.
Lovelace then takes Council to the Greenville Police Department where he is interviewed by FBI agents Tod Richards and Fred Coates. Agent Coates testified in court, and prosecutors showed 90 minutes of that interview. As soon as the agents walked in the room, Council said, ” I don’t even want to hear you talk, let me talk.” He was read his rights and proceeded to talk about the crimes and what led up to them.
” I was desperate, I was homeless, I was unemployed,” Council said.
He goes on to tell agents he had only been out of prison a few months and was actually doing well for himself working at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant and living with his mom. But, things quickly changed when he got into a big argument with his stepfather and was kicked out of the home. It was at that moment that he says everything went left. Within weeks, he committed three robberies; one at a Food Lion in Greenville, BB&T in Wilson, NC, and the CresCom robbery in Conway. During his first two robberies, he said he didn’t have a weapon. He would later purchase a 22-caliber pistol for $45 from a stranger on the street. He said the purchase was to protect himself. When asked why he decided to murder at CresCom he said,” I knew that I wouldn’t stand a chance to get away due to location and response time of local law enforcement.” Council appears to be crying multiple times throughout the interview footage as he continued to describe the CresCom murder and the day-and-a-half afterwards.
“I just hope those women and their families know that.. it wasn’t nothing personal.”
Count on News13 for all updates on this federal trial.