Jury will soon decide whether man in CresCom double murder should be sentenced to death

A federal jury will soon decide whether Brandon Council should be executed for killing two CresCom bank employees during a 2017 robbery.

Council’s defense attorneys rested their case on Tuesday during the third week of the federal, death penalty trial.

The jury convicted Council last week on murder charges for killing Katie Skeen and Donna Major.

On Aug. 21, 2017, Council went into the Conway CresCom bank, while on the run from other robberies in North Carolina. Council went to Major’s teller stand, waited about 45 seconds and then shot her twice. He ran into Skeen’s office and shot her in the head. Council then went back to Major and shot her in the head.

Council robbed the bank and fled to North Carolina. Police arrested him driving a car he bought with money stolen from CresCom. Officers found the gun, clothes and money from the robbery in the car’s trunk.

The defense, like on Monday, highlighted Council’s youth and his time at Dobbs Training School in North Carolina. The school was designed to help convicted children in a school-type setting, but inmates and officials described it as more of a prison for children.

Deborah Grey is a social worker and completed an extensive review of Council’s family history. She conducted more than 75 interviews, reviewed thousands of pages of documents and spent over 600 hours on the case. She testified for nearly six hours on Thursday about the time before Council’s birth until he was 25 years old.

Council’s father was not involved in his son’s life for the first 18 years, Grey said. His side of the family, including his father, had extensive mental and substance-abuse issues. Though, Grey said, she was not testifying on whether Council has a mental health condition.

Council’s mother was more like a big sister than a mom and Council’s grandmother was his caregiver, Grey said. Family and friends described the home as one that met Council’s needs, but more through buying material items than showing love.

“This is a household described as cold,” Grey said.

There was drug dealing and use throughout the neighborhood and Council was often confined to the yard, Grey said.

Council did well in school, Grey said, until the 7th grade when he experienced several significant events. Council’s mother secretly married their church’s pastor — who was having an affair with one of Council’s aunts. Council’s grandmother also became ill and died.

Council then lived with his mom and stepfather, who physically and sexually abused him, Grey said Council disclosed.

Grades started to suffer and Council spent more time in the neighborhood, Grey said. He was sent to Dobbs after an arrest for dealing drugs.

Inmates said Dobbs was a prison for children where guards would physically and sexually abuse the boys and where there was constant fighting, Grey said. Other students described Council as quiet and people from his hometown of Wilson, North Carolina, stepped up to protect him.

“He was small, he was non-violent, Grey said.

Council spent about 27 months, over two stints, in Dobbs, Grey said. That exceeded the average stay of about six months to a year.

After he was released from Dobbs, Council held dozens of jobs over the next eight years, Grey said. He never earned more than $13,000 a year. Police also arrested Council several times on charges, including larceny, breaking and entering and possession of stolen goods.

During cross-examination, Grey said she was only tasked with looking at the first 24 years of Council’s life. Council would serve six years in prison shortly after turning 25. She also admitted that Council received his high-school equivalency diploma while at Dobbs, which only 13 percent of inmates achieved.

There were also no records to support his claims of sexual and physical abuse by his stepfather or at Dobbs, Grey said.

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Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.