Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 4, 2014

Husband took wife's gun away months before shooting

TRAVERSE CITY — The husband of a woman involved in a deadly shooting in Long Lake Township once removed a handgun from their household because of "safety" concerns, a police report states.

Nicole Mitchell, 27, later pulled the same handgun — a .40-caliber Ruger — on Roger Rex Howard, 29, of Traverse City, and told authorities it discharged when he grabbed the weapon during an argument.

Howard died March 21 in Mitchell's rented condominium on Black Bear Drive from a gunshot wound. Mitchell hasn't been charged in the death.

Grand Traverse County sheriff's Capt. Randy Fewless said detectives are looking into prior cases that involve Howard, Mitchell and others as they investigate Howard's death and wait for state police scene reconstruction reports.

"We're looking at all police reports involved with any people in this investigation," he said. "We're trying to put all the pieces together."

Mitchell and her husband, John Mitchell, 24, were involved in an Oct. 17 domestic violence case at their then-home in Traverse City. A related police report lists a Ruger with the same serial number as one of two weapons John Mitchell removed from their apartment on Riverine Drive.

Police arrested John Mitchell on a domestic violence charge, but 86th District Court Judge Thomas Phillips later dismissed the case after questions arose about Nicole Mitchell's truthfulness.

John and Nicole Mitchell couldn't be reached for comment.

The police report states John Mitchell entrusted the guns to a friend who told officers that Mitchell said "there was trouble going on at his house and he did not want the firearms there and asked him to hold them for safekeeping." Mitchell didn't elaborate on those problems.

Traverse City Police Capt. Jeff O'Brien assisted in the domestic violence investigation and said guns were never an issue during the occasions police responded to other domestic situations at the apartment.

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