Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 25, 2014

Details emerge about woman involved in fatal shooting

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A woman involved in a deadly shooting in Long Lake Township had a brush with the law about four months ago, has had a tumultuous marriage to a local member of the U.S. Coast Guard, and may have had a romantic relationship with a man who ended up dead in her rented condominium.

But local law enforcement officials are saying little to nothing about Nicole Rachell Mitchell, 27, who told authorities she picked up Traverse City resident Roger Rex Howard, 29, late Friday and brought him to her home in Long Lake Township.

Howard died of a single gunshot wound fired from a handgun Mitchell said she drew to protect herself.

She has not been charged in Howard’s death.

Howard and Mitchell recently rekindled a romantic relationship, Howard’s employer told the Record-Eagle. Mitchell told authorities she and Howard had some sort of altercation in the condominium’s garage and she asked him to leave.

Howard entered the home anyway, and Mitchell pulled out a gun, authorities said. She told investigators Howard grabbed the gun and it discharged and hit Howard in the chest.

Sheriff Tom Bensley released no details about Mitchell, other than to say she told investigators the gun belonged to her.

Bensley said he didn’t know whether the gun was registered to her or someone else.

“We have the gun. We know that’s the gun. Whose it is and what caliber it is is part of the investigation, but it’s not the most important thing in the investigation,” Bensley said.

Mitchell was charged with assault and third-degree retail fraud for an incident in December, according to local court documents. The assault charge later was dropped and her sentence was delayed.

Mitchell is married to a U.S. Coast Guard officer who is assigned to the Frankfort station and has been stationed there since summer 2010. Mitchell’s husband arrived at the station for a shift late Friday or early Saturday when she called to tell him about the incident, said Chief Petty Officer Kyle Niemi, the assistant public affairs office for the 9th Coast Guard District.

Court records show Mitchell’s husband filed for divorce in August 2013, and both filed for personal protection orders in recent years. The divorce case eventually was dismissed.

Niemi said there’s no reason to believe the weapon used in Howard’s death had any tie to the Coast Guard.

“He doesn’t hold a position that would require him to have Coast Guard-issued weapon. They conduct law enforcement patrols, but all the weapons are locked away,” Niemi said.

Mitchell has two children who were with her at the time of the shooting. A third child also was in the house.