The Columbus man facing the death penalty in the homicides of his girlfriend and their infant son had his initial Superior Court hearing postponed Friday.
Brandon David Conner is charged in the 2014 deaths of Rosella "Mandy" Mitchell and 6-month-old son Dylan Conner, whose charred bodies were found Aug. 21 in their burned 1324 Winifred Lane home.
Conner’s accused of stabbing the 32-year-old Mitchell to death and killing the baby before setting thee house afire. He has been indicted on two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, and one count each of aggravated battery, first-degree arson and using a knife to commit a felony.
District Attorney Julia Slater announced in April that she would seek the death penalty in the double-homicide case.
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His initial hearing Friday before Judge William Rumer was to go over a checklist of preliminary steps required in death-penalty cases to ensure they’re handled correctly under the law. Part of that process is identifying the attorneys on both sides.
Slater and Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly will be the prosecutors. Columbus attorneys J. Mark Shelnutt and William Kendrick represent Conner.
Shelnutt requested the hearing be postponed, saying Conner’s family is trying to raise enough money to pay for his defense. If the family can’t do that, then Conner may be declared indigent, at which time the state Public Defender Standards Council will assume his defense.
A council representative, Jerry Word, was in court to monitor the proceedings.
Shelnutt requested a 30-day delay that Rumer granted, setting another hearing for 9 a.m. Monday, July 6. The judge also asked that Shelnutt remain in contact with Word, should the state public defenders need to step in.
Word told the court he would like to know by June 29 if Conner needs state attorneys.
Rumer said also that Conner will be arraigned at the July hearing. An arraignment is a formal reading of the charges followed by the defendant’s plea of guilty or not guilty.
After the hearing, Shelnutt said his client maintains his innocence and remains distraught over the loss of his girlfriend and child. “He’s devastated by what happened,” Shelnutt said. “He’s suffered a major loss in his life.”
The attorney said defending a death-penalty case is expensive because it requires testimony from experts and a search for witnesses who’ve known Conner all his life, so that jurors get a full profile of him. The expense “easily” can exceed $100,000, Shelnutt said.
Conner's indictment alleges he stabbed Mitchell in the throat and torso with a knife that had a blade longer than 3 inches. His malice murder charges allege he deliberately killed his girlfriend and child, and his felony murder counts accuse him of killing the mother and child while committing the felony offense of aggravated assault. The indictment does not specify how the child was killed.