By Erin Smith
A day of testimony was punctuated with emotion on Wednesday, August 24th, 2017, as the brother of the victim took the stand in the Montise Mitchell murder trial in Bladen County Superior Court. Mitchell is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Darrell Dionte Council.
Jury selection wrapped up on Tuesday and testimony got under way. Antwan Council, brother of Darrell Dionte Council, testified regarding two prior alterations between Robert Council (Robert Council is a cousin of the two Council brothers) and Montise Mitchell. The first altercation occurred in 2013.
“Robert got jumped coming out of work by a group of guys,” said Antwan Council. He explained Mitchell was part of the group.
He said both himself, Robert Council and Montise Mitchell, all worked at Smithfield Foods at the time of the altercation. He also testified to a second altercation which occurred in 2014 between his cousin, Robert Council and Montise Mitchell. The second altercation occurred on Center Road.
Antwan Council said he was at a home on Center Road and saw Mitchell and called Robert Council to let him know Mitchell was present. Robert Council arrived and a fist fight ensued according to Antwan Council’s testimony.
Following the second altercation Antwan Council said he did not hear from Montise Mitchell again until the events of November 8, 2015.
In testimony he described riding with his brother, Darrell Council, the murder victim, on the evening of November 8th to pick up D’Nazya Sade Downing and Shanika Mitchell. Shanika Mitchell is Montise Mitchell’s sister.
Council also described the seating arrangements in the vehicle. He was also presented screenshots of Facebook conversations between himself and Downing. Council testified the conversations were about smoking marijuana.
Antwan Council testified on the morning of November 8, 2015, Downing and Shanika Mitchell were already at his house when he woke up at about 11 a.m. He said they seemed to be happy and were laughing. He said his brother, Darrell, had let the girls inside the home.
He said the two women talked about wanting some marijuana and eventually left. Once Downing and Shanika Mitchell left, the brothers then made plans to ride four wheelers with Robert Council. Those plans were changed when Robert Council’s four wheeler broke down.
Antwan Council said he, Darrell Council, and Isaiah Long left the home on Owen Hill Road went and picked Downing and Shanika Mitchell up at Downing’s home. Upon returning to the Council Home on Owen Hill Road they all sat in the vehicle for about two hours smoking marijuana and watching the football game on a cell phone, according to Antwan Council’s testimony.
Antwan Council explained the circumstances leading up to the altercation at the intersection of Twisted Hickory and Center Road. Antwan Council said initially Isaiah Long was supposed to drive the women home but the women insisted the Council brothers should drive them home instead.
Antwan Council described the seating arrangements in the vehicle as Darrell Council driving, Downing in the front passenger seat, Antwan said he was seated behind Downing and Shanika Mitchell was seated behind Darrell. Bladen County Assistant District Attorney Quentin McGee asked Council if it came up in discussions between the four in the vehicle that Downing was dating Montise Mitchell. Antwan Council answered, “no,” to McGee’s question.
In testimony, Antwan Council said he remained in the back seat when they left Downing’s home. He said as the vehicle approached the intersection of Twisted Hickory and Center Road, he saw Montise Mitchell walking across the road towards the center line. Antwan Council described Mitchell as wearing Charles Barkley shoes and a black hoodie.
In testimony, Antwan Council told the court he saw a black and silver hand gun pointed towards the passenger side of the vehicle and Mitchell then started shooting.
“Did you hear gun shots?” asked McGee.
“Yes, I heard two or three,” said Antwan Council.
In testimony, Antwan Council said when he saw the gun, he ducked down in the back seat. He also identified Montise Mitchell in court as the shooter. Council also testified to asking his brother Darrell if he was okay and getting no response.
Antwan Council also explained to the court room the following steps he took during the shooting. He testified to existing the vehicle following the shooting, running to a nearby house to get help, but they said no. He called 911 on his cell phone and sought a place to hide thinking the shooter may have been following him. The 911 call was played in court.
As he viewed photos from the scene of the shooting, Antwan Council emotionally broke down on the stand.
On cross examination Defense Attorney Teresa Gibson referenced a Facebook message where Council indicated being upset with Downing for telling someone where he stayed. Council said the individuals referred to in the Facebook message had contacted him and were making threats.
Gibson also asked Council who he called to obtain marijuana. McGee objected to the question but Judge Holt allowed Council to answer. Council replied he only knew the person’s first name and told the court it was James. He said he did not have a last name.
The court also heard from Deputies Travis Deaver and James Monroe regarding his arrival on the scene. Deaver said he found Darrell Council’s suburban in the ditch and Council was still belted in the driver’s seat. He described removing Council and attempting to perform CPR. Deaver also described loading Council into the ambulance and driving a second rescue vehicle following the ambulance to the hospital.
Corporal Monroe also described for the court the efforts to save Darrell Council’s life and secure the scene of the shooting to preserve evidence.
Investigator Morgan Johnson testified regarding the efforts to search for and preserve evidence. According to testimony on Wednesday, there was a total of 21 shots fired from what appears to be two locations.
On Tuesday, the court also heard testimony from D’Nazya Downing regarding her recollection of events from November 8, 2015. She described the events of the evening leading up to the shooting. Downing described for the court the direction of travel of the vehicle Council was driving when he and his brother, Antwan, picked up Downing and Shanika Mitchell, who is the defendant’s sister.
Downing testified the four traveled Twisted Hickory Road to Owen Hill Road. She said they returned to her home on Center Road by the same route.
Bladen County Assistant District Attorney Quentin McGee asked Downing if she texted or called Montise Mitchell to let him know which direction the Council brothers were traveling when they left her home on November 8 and she replied, “No.”
She also answered questions regarding the seating arrangements in the vehicle. Downing said when they were traveling to the Council home on Owen Hill Road, Darrell Council was driving, Antwan Council was beside him, she was seated behind Darrell and Shanika Mitchell was seated behind Antwan.
She also testified that while at the residence on Owen Hill Road, Isaiah Long, Robert Council Darrell Council and Antwan Council were all present in addition to Mitchell’s sister and Downing herself.
Defense Attorney Teresa Gibson asked Downing about “love letters” she had written to Mitchell. McGee asked Downing if she had any reason to lie about the events of that night. Downing replied, “No.”
Gibson also questioned Downing about her child who is fathered by Montise Mitchell. Downing testified that Mitchell does not pay child support. McGee asked Downing if the situation with her child would lead her to lie about the events of November 8. She said it would not.
Testimony in the murder trial will continue on Thursday.
Article published in 2015 in reference to the murder:
Four people in custody in November shooting death of Council
Additional charges filed in shooting death of Tar Heel man