Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 24, 2014

Sheriff slow to release victim's ID, other details

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse sheriff’s officials waited about 35 hours before publicly releasing the name of the victim in a deadly shooting, and even then the county sheriff said he knew few details of the county’s first gun-related homicide of 2014.

Sheriff Tom Bensley said deputies knew Roger Rex Howard’s identity shortly after a bullet from a handgun killed him late Friday at the home of Nicole Rachell Mitchell, 27. Mitchell told authorities a gun she possessed discharged when Howard, 29, grabbed it.

Bensley said he didn’t know when Howard’s family was informed of his death. He was unapologetic about taking nearly a day and a half to publicly announce the victim’s name.

“We are not a one-hour television program,” Bensley said. “We have to get everything right.”

One Saturday Bensley refused to provide basic details of the shooting, including the location, other than it occurred in Long Lake Township, the time, and involved a man and woman, because “I don’t have to.”

Bensley on Sunday said he didn’t know who owned the gun that killed Howard, whether Mitchell or Howard had criminal histories, or whether Howard was the father of any of the three children present at the shooting site.

“I’m not giving you much info, am I,” Bensley said. “Well, I’m not the investigator, so I don’t have all the nitty-gritty details. I have the general who, what, where and when kind of stuff.”

Sheriff’s Detective Nathan Ritter, who’s investigating the case, later referred a Record-Eagle reporter to Bensley. Ritter said he’d kept Bensley and his supervisors up-to-date on case details.