Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

March 27, 2014

Woman 'a suspect' in shooting

TRAVERSE CITY — Nicole Rachell Mitchell’s statement to police following the shooting death of Roger Rex Howard wasn’t the first time she spoke with investigators about a possible crime.

Mitchell’s previous encounters with law enforcement include at least one instance in which her story didn’t add up, an incident that landed her husband in jail on a domestic violence charge that prosecutors later dismissed because of questions over the truthfulness her statements, local court records show. Records also show Nicole and John Mitchell’s tumultuous relationship included divorce proceedings and an exchange of restraining order requests rooted in accusations of domestic disputes, violence and drug use.

Now Nicole Mitchell, 27, is a suspect in the March 21 shooting death of Roger Rex Howard, 29, of Traverse City, in Mitchell’s rented condominium on Black Bear Lane in Long Lake Township, Grand Traverse County’s top law enforcement official confirmed.

Mitchell told authorities a handgun she pulled discharged after Howard, with whom Mitchell had been romantically involved, grabbed the weapon she held as they argued.

Howard’s death occurred about five months after police arrested Mitchell’s husband John Lee Mitchell, 24, for domestic violence, and about three months after 86th District Court Judge Thomas Philips dismissed charges against the suspect when his attorney questioned the consistency of Nicole Mitchell’s statements to investigators.

Nicole Mitchell originally told police John Mitchell pushed her head against a wall on Oct. 17, 2013 and struck her on the cheek, a police report states.

She later changed her story, something John Mitchell’s attorney pointed out in a motion dated Dec. 26, 2013.

“It is believed that these inconsistent statements included admissions that Nicole Mitchell completely fabricated her initial report to Officer Verschaeve and that the abrasion on her face was actually the result of an altercation with a drug dealer,” John Mitchell’s defense attorney Robert Whims argued in the motion.

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