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April 1, 2014

Detectives await shooting death reconstruction

TRAVERSE CITY — Detectives are waiting to learn if a woman’s account of a fatal shooting at her Long Lake Township condominium matches a crime scene reconstruction conducted by state police technicians.

Roger Rex Howard, 29, died from a gunshot wound from a handgun that Nicole Mitchell, 27, told authorities she drew to protect herself late March 21.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney considers Mitchell a suspect in the fatal shooting, but she hasn’t been arrested or charged.

Sheriff’s Capt. Randy Fewless hopes a crime scene reconstruction from the state police’s Grayling-based crime lab unit will be finished in a week or two. He said detectives will see if it’s consistent, or inconsistent, with Mitchell’s story.

“Obviously, we’re trying to recreate the scene the best we can,” he said.

Mitchell told investigators she argued with Howard, with whom she had a romantic relationship, and told him to leave her rented condo on Black Bear Drive. She said she picked up a pistol to defend herself and her children after Howard returned.

She said Howard grabbed the pistol, it discharged and struck him in the chest.

Emergency medical personnel treated Howard at the condo and transported him to Munson Medical Center, where doctors pronounced him dead.

Connie Swander, laboratory director for the state police’s Grayling laboratory, said a crime scene crew is reviewing evidence they collected from the condo.

She said investigators in shooting deaths use gunpowder residue to estimate gunshot distance. She said other evidence — bloodstain patterns and information taken from probes or lasers — can determine a bullet’s trajectory.

“Basically, they’re trying to put a story together,” Swander said.

This “story” may help prove or disprove what a suspect told investigators. Swander said a final report could take up to three months, depending on the evidence.

Fewless said detectives are reviewing interviews and reports while they wait for the crime lab’s report.

Cooney said prosecutors met with investigators, but he hasn’t yet received any police reports or documents.

Mitchell couldn’t be reached for comment.

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