Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 26, 2014

Couple had 'roller coaster' relationship

TRAVERSE CITY — Roger Rex Howard and Nicole Rachell Mitchell took a wild relationship ride, a romantic entanglement that ended when Howard died of a gunshot wound at Mitchell’s rented condominium in Long Lake Township.

Both Howard and Mitchell were married to others, Howard’s mother Rhonda Hudson said. She tried to warn her son away from Mitchell, married to a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and mother of two children.

Mitchell, 27, “played too many games” with her son during their “roller coaster ride” of a relationship, Hudson said. Mitchell recently told Howard she was pregnant with his child. They’d seen each other for a year or more, but Mitchell apparently wanted to patch things with her husband.

“She had to make up her mind. It was tearing him up,” said Hudson, who recalled her son as someone who always was willing to help friends and family.

“He had a really big heart and had a big smile and the kind of laugh that made other people laugh,” Hudson said.

Authorities continue to investigate Howard’s shooting death late March 21 at Mitchell’s condominium. Mitchell picked up Howard that night and drove him to her home, where the two quarreled, Mitchell told investigators.

She pulled a gun on Howard, 29, and said it discharged when he grabbed the weapon. He collapsed and was pronounced dead a short time later. Mitchell hasn’t been arrested. Authorities have not publicly termed her a suspect.

Hudson said she learned Mitchell’s story from investigators as follows: Mitchell and Howard got into a fight in Mitchell’s garage, an incident that included a broken cell phone. Mitchell went upstairs to check on her two children and a third child when she heard Howard’s footsteps on the stairs.

She told police she thought Howard had left the residence and she grabbed a handgun in self-defense. Howard walked toward Mitchell and said he would rather die than leave. She said he grabbed the pistol, and put his hands over hers and put the gun to his chest when it discharged.

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