Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 28, 2014

Prosecutor: Limited access to Mitchell report from Dec.

TRAVERSE CITY — A woman under investigation in a deadly shooting in Grand Traverse County was arrested late last year for shoplifting and assaulting a store employee at a local retail shop, but authorities this week refused to release a portion of a police report that detailed her attack.

Local prosecutors charged Nicole Rachell Mitchell, 27, with retail fraud and assault and battery after a Dec. 13 incident at Younkers in the Cherryland Center in Garfield Township. She pleaded no contest to the shoplifting charge on March 6, paid a $550 fine and the assault charge was dismissed.

The Record-Eagle this week sought a copy of that police report from Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney, who redacted a portion of the report that specified Mitchell’s assault of the security guard.

“In my opinion, it would be prejudicial for someone to know she was arrested for a particular offense,” Cooney said.

Cooney told a Record-Eagle reporter he considers Mitchell a suspect in the March 21 shooting death of Roger Rex Howard, 29, at her rental condominium in Long Lake Township death. Public knowledge of Mitchell’s assault on the security guard could jeopardize her chance at a fair trial, if she’s charged in Howard’s death, Cooney said.

A Younkers employee noticed Mitchell place items in her purse, according to the available parts of the report. She paid for a pair of pants, the report stated, but items in her purse remained concealed.

The employee identified himself as “loss prevention” and asked Mitchell to enter his office.

Cooney removed the section of the report that detailed Mitchell’s reaction. The loss prevention officer could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Mitchell was arrested and subsequently ordered to have no contact with the loss prevention officer, according to court records. She was placed on probation this month and one condition of probation included the stipulation she was “not to behave in a violent, threatening, intimidating or harassing manner toward anyone.”

Mitchell’s lawyer in the theft and assault case, Matthew Connolly, did not respond to requests for comment. Mitchell could not be reached for comment.

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