Brandon Michael Council avoided the glare of dozens of family and friends of the two women that were gunned down in a Conway bank robbery last month as he entered a federal courtroom in Florence Thursday afternoon.
The double murder heist was one of the nation’s deadliest bank robberies in recent years and the option of a death sentence lurked on the horizon.
Magistrate Judge Thomas Rogers looked up from his bench in the third floor courtroom of the John McMillan Federal Building to ask prosecutors about a capital punishment decision.
“We have not made a decision,” U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson told the court. “That is an ongoing process that has not yet been resolved.”
Council’s hands were shackled to a chain around his waist, his long dreadlocks pulled back from his face, as the 32-year-old Wilson, N.C., man told the judge he understood the charges against him and waived his rights to hearings on probable cause and bond.
Police say Council shot and killed Kathryn “Katie” Davis Skeen, 36, of Green Sea and Donna Major, 59, of Conway during the robbery before fleeing the scene in one of the victim’s vehicles on the afternoon of Aug. 21.
Council was arrested following a brief foot pursuit by Greenville, N.C., police two days later after Council was spotted near a Red Lobster.
Once he was captured, he allegedly admitted to police that he shot the bank employees, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.
Council told agents he was “desperate, he needed money, and that he knew he was going to shoot someone,” the court document states. “He knew he was going to hurt somebody that day,” a special agent with the FBI noted in the complaint.
Council allegedly told agents he had watched the movie “Get Rich or Die Trying,” and also stated “he did not deserve to live,” according to the complaint.
The court document lays out the gruesome sequence of events that unfolded inside the CresCom Bank at 16th Avenue, and what happened leading up to the robbery that left Major and Skeen dead.
The day of the robbery and murders, Council allegedly went into the bank just after 1:10 p.m., had a brief conversation with a female bank teller, pulled a gun on her, and then shot her multiple times, the document states.
Police say surveillance footage then shows Council jumping over the bank counter and discovering another teller hiding under a desk.
Video surveillance then allegedly shows him shooting the second female multiple times as she tries to hide under the desk, according to the affidavit.
Council fled the scene in one of the victims’ cars, which was later recovered, police said.
A bank audit showed $15,294 was taken, along with both victims’ car keys and multiple bank credit cards that belonged to Skeen and Major, the document states.
In federal court, Council is facing charges of armed bank robbery with a deadly weapon resulting in death and using a firearm to commit a violent crime.
In Horry County, Council faces two counts of murder, one count of entering a bank with an intent to steal, grand larceny, armed robbery, possession of a weapon during a violent crime and being a felon in possession of a pistol.