Judge: Case against Conway bank robbery suspect makes him eligible for death penalty

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – The man accused of murdering two employees during a Conway bank robbery last month appeared before a federal judge in Florence on Thursday for the first time.

Brandon Council, 32, of Wilson, North Carolina, was in the courtroom for roughly five minutes and waived his extradition hearing in N.C.

Additionally, the defendant waived his right to a preliminary hearing, according to court documents filed on Thursday.

Magistrate Judge Thomas Rogers made it clear to Council that this case makes him eligible to face the death penalty.

The prosecution was then asked if they planned to seek the death penalty. That decision, they told the judge, has not been decided yet.

During the brief hearing, family members of the two victims occupied two-and-a-half rows in the courtroom. They were seen holding hands and crying.

Scott Hixson, the chief deputy solicitor for the 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office and special assistant to the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Thursday's hearing was "very procedural"

"The federal government has to go through a process and I wouldn't make any more comment at this stage other than that, that everything is on track, if that makes sense," Hixson said. "I think the comments to the court were appropriate about this is where we are. I hate to sound vague, but we'll keep moving forward."

When asked about the possibility of seeking the death penalty for Council, Hixson said that decision would be made at the appropriate time.

"This stage of it, he is under a federal complaint," Hixson said. "The next step is federal indictment and then the case will be moving forward in the federal system, just as there are signed warrants on him on the state system that we expect to be served on him, and that will initiate the state prosecution that will be concurrent with the federal prosecution."

Council faces two counts of murder in connection with the Aug. 21 CresCom Bank robbery, as well as one count each of entering a bank with the intent to steal, grand larceny, armed robbery, possession of weapon during a violent crime and being a felon in possession of a pistol.

Officials with the Horry County Coroner's Office previously identified the two employees who were killed during the robbery as Donna Major, 59, of Conway, and Kathryn "Katie" Skeen, 36, of Green Sea.

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