Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 24, 2014

Victim, woman reconnected

By MICHELLE MERLIN mmerlin@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A struggle over a handgun left a Grand Traverse County man dead from a bullet wound, and left numerous questions about the woman who drew the gun and her relationship with the victim.

Roger Rex Howard, 29, died from a gunshot to the upper chest after an argument with Nicole Rachell Mitchell, 27, a woman authorities termed “an acquaintance” but with whom Howard was romantically involved, the victim’s employer said.

The shooting occurred late Friday at Mitchell’s rented condominium on Black Bear Drive in Long Lake Township. Howard was pronounced dead at Munson Medical Center.

Three children were in the residence when the shooting occurred Friday at about 11:30. Grand Traverse Sheriff Thomas Bensley said he did not know details of Howard’s and Mitchell’s relationship, or if Howard had fathered of any of the children in the condo.

Mitchell picked up Howard from his Garfield Township home sometime that evening and drove him to the condo, authorities said. An argument ensued in the garage, sheriff’s officials said in a press release, which also stated Mitchell told investigators she asked Howard to leave, but when she went

upstairs to check on her children she heard him come inside the residence.

Mitchell told authorities she picked up a handgun to defend herself and her children, according to the release. She said Howard grabbed the gun and it discharged.

Mitchell said she saw Howard walk into the hallway and collapse.

Mitchell had not been arrested by Sunday afternoon. Authorities said the case will be presented to the county prosecutor’s office for review.

Howard’s mother, Rhonda Hudson, met with investigators Sunday morning at a Garfield Township residence and initially told a Record-Eagle reporter she would answer questions about her son after the police interview. Later, a man who answered the door would not comment.

Howard’s friend Glenda Thomason, of Traverse City, called him a caring, loving friend.

“I’m devastated and angry and upset,” Thomason said. “He would give you the shirt off his back.”

Howard also had a young son, Thomason said.

Prior to his death Howard worked for several months at the Three Tradesmen, a Traverse City-based remodeling company.

“He was a great friend and a great worker,” said Three Tradesmen owner Rich Patt. “He was just an awesome guy; I’m going to miss him.”

Patt said Howard and Mitchell were in a romantic relationship.

“He’d kind of rekindled things with her,” Patt said. “(Mitchell) would drop him off to work in the morning.”

Local court records show Howard had several run-ins with the law for incidents that ranged from driving offenses to assault and theft to an October 2012 domestic violence conviction.