Brandon Council ruled competent for trial in double murders at Conway bank

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10:30 a.m. Monday update:

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Brandon Council was examined by a psychologist and psychiatrist this weekend and found competent to stand trial for double-murder. No mental issues were discovered, according to his defense team.

Council entered the courtroom in different attire Monday morning. Instead of the sports coat and khaki pants from days prior, he was hand-cuffed and in an orange jail jumpsuit.

Prosecutors had no objection to the examination results. U.S Attorney Everett McMillan said they plan to file a motion against evidence the defense plans to present in upcoming days. According to McMillan, a defense expert will present a “Mental Health Family Tree” for Council. The tree will show illnesses suffered by his close family members.

McMillan told the judge he fears that will make jurors speculate on whether Council has a mental illness himself.

Defense Attorneys assured Judge Harwell the expert will tell jurors Council does not have an illness, and the tree is only meant to show his background.

 Trial will resume Tuesday morning.

On Friday, the defense team for Council requested a competency hearing. Attorney Duane Bryant said Council suffered from “an episode.”

Brandon Council faces two indictments for committing robbery resulting in murder at the CresCom bank in Conway and for possession of a firearm used for murder. The two victims murdered were Donna Major and Katie Skeen.


10:30 a.m. Friday Update:
The defense for Brandon Council in his double-murder trial has requested a competency hearing. The trial will be delayed until Monday so Council can be evaluated.

Attorney Duane Bryant said Council suffered from “an episode.” It is not known whether an incident happened before court on Friday or after court let out on Thursday.

The motion states defense counsel believe Council is “unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and is not capable of assisting properly or rationally in his defense, due to mental disease or defect.”

A doctor, who has examined Council previously, is expected to examine him on Friday.

The motion states: At the present time, Brandon Council is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and is not assisting properly in his defense. See Medina v. California, 505 U.S. 437, 450 (1992) (“[D]efense counsel will often have the best-informed view of the defendant’s ability to participate in his defense”)

Counsel believe that their client is presently mentally ill and unable to proceed. Further details can be provided to the Court in an ex parte discussion as to why counsel hold this belief.


FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) United States Prosecutors presented their last witnesses for the CresCom double-murder and bank robbery trial on Thursday.

Prosecutors interviewed a total of 19 witnesses which included police officers, CresCom workers, hotel employees, FBI agents, and a pathologist. There are 58 total witnesses in the case.

The third day of the trial consisted of five witness testimonies. Four of those were from FBI personnel and the final one from a pathologist.

Norman Qwilen, FBI Agent from North Carolina, was the first person to testify on Thursday. He said he was responsible for collecting evidence from Katie Skeen’s Chrysler 200 and from Mercedes Benz Council drove. In Skeen’s vehicle, he found her personal items and reported that her front bumper tag was missing. Twenty-seven items were collected from the Mercedes. Those items included 22-revolver, $10,065 inside a white pillowcase, a purple and gray bumper tag, a wallet with a note inside that started with the words “This is a bank robbery……”, and more.

Doug Calapasco, FBI Forensic Scientist, said he examined firearm evidence in case including 22-revolver, metal fragments and bullets recovered from Donna and Katie’s bodies. He said the bullets were consistent with the revolver.

Ashley Leon, FBI Fingerprinting Lab, said she examined two images of fingerprints taken during investigation. She said only one of those images matched Council.

Mike Connelly, FBI Supervisor, told court about 70 people were interviewed in CresCom case and said 20 surveillance videos were watched as evidence. Prosecutors presented those videos in court. They showed Council on August 15, 2017 when he arrived at Conway Express Inn until the moment he left on August 21. From the footage, we learned Council spent his first days in Conway hanging out with people at the hotel and walking back-in-forth in its alley.

At approximately 1:10 P.M., August 21st, we watched Council leave his hotel room. During the same time, Katie and Donna are seen on bank footage talking with each other before Katie returns to her office at 1:11 P.M.

Council walked in CresCom only a few seconds after and at 1:12 P.M, he reaches down for weapon and shoots Donna. He is seen running back and forth with the weapon and jumps over the teller counter several times.

Video shows he walked out the bank close to 1:19 P.M. He was in the bank less than 10 minutes. A few seconds later, hotel surveillance video showed he pulls up at Conway Express in Katie’s white Chrysler 200, got two bags out of his hotel room and pulled off the property at 1:21 P.M.

The last person to testify for prosecutors Thursday was Edward Proctor, Forensic Pathologist. Proctor said he performed autopsies on Katie and Donna’s bodies and ruled both of their deaths as homicides.

Council’s defense will introduce their first witnesses on Friday. There are a total of 58 witnesses in the case.

Count on News13 for all updates.

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