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Testimony begins in Cole trial
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By Carol McIntire
A jury of four men and eight women will decide if Audrey Cole (also as Audrey Branch) acted in self-defense or murdered Michael Mott when she shot him May 3, 2021, at a home they shared near Mechanicstown.
During opening statements late Monday morning, Carroll County Prosecuting Attorney Steven D. Barnett told the jury Cole pulled an AR 15 out from under a bed, went to the closet, got the magazine, loaded the gun and shot Mott one time in a hallway. Law enforcement officials found Mott dead in the front yard after Cole made a 911 call saying she shot him.
Cole’s attorney, Chase Mallory, then told the jury Cole acted in self-defense and retrieved the gun from under the bed after an argument escalated into Cole being beaten by Mott and her head hit into a wall so hard it busted a hole in the wall. Mallory said Cole was attempting to leave the house and exited the bedroom where the fight took place only to come upon Mott in the hallway. Mott came at her, and she shot him.
Opening day testimony
The jury heard from Josie Day, a 911 dispatcher for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department who answered a 911 call May 3 at 17:03 p.m. (military time) from a woman who identified herself as Audrey Branch, and then heard a tape recording of the actual 12-minute 911 call.
“The female stated her boyfriend hit her on the head, she shot him and he’s dead,” Day testified. “I asked her where she shot him and she said in the chest. I asked her if he was still breathing and she said she was unsure, he was lying in the yard,” Day said answering questions from Prosecutor Steven D. Barnett.
After relaying information to a fellow dispatcher who began dispatching emergency services to the scene, Day said she returned to the line and asked Branch if the victim had a pulse. Branch replied in a calm voice she didn’t see him moving and admitted she shot him with a rifle.
Day then asked Branch to go outside and check on the victim to see if he was still breathing.
Branch told Day the victim was face down in the yard with lots of blood.
“Can you check for a pulse?” Day asked. After a brief period of time, Branch replied, “no pulse.”
In the middle of the conversation, Branch stated, “My head is really hurting right now,” and told Day, “You had to come before for a domestic situation. My forehead is bleeding and there are marks where he was punching me in the head.”
Branch then communicated both she and the victim are veterans and he (Mott) suffered from PTSD.
Day asked Branch to turn the victim over and check him for breathing, which she did, stating, “I think he’s gone.”
Day then gave Branch instructions to perform CPR, which she did until Deputy Eric Licht arrived on the scene.
Licht testified when he arrived, a woman walked over to his cruiser stating, “He’s gone, he’s gone.”
Stating he was familiar with both the woman and the victim, Licht said he checked the victim and didn’t find a pulse, located a wound in the upper chest and began doing chest compressions. When the ambulance arrived, one medic took over care of the victim and another took Branch to the ambulance for treatment.
On cross examination, Branch’s attorney, April Campbell asked Litch if he was trained in responding to domestic violence incidents and referred to the 21-foot rule. She then asked Litch if Mott was bigger than Branch to which he replied, “yes” if she was a woman and if the victim was man. Licht replied “yes” to both questions.
Major Calvin Graham testified he found no weapons near the victim’s body and that Branch did not seem dazed or confused and could communicate with him. He followed the ambulance to the hospital without any lights or sirens activated on either vehicle and waited while Branch was treated. When released after two-to-three hours, he then drove her to the Carroll County Jail where she voluntarily made a statement to Investigator Richard Stauffer and Graham.
“She admitted she shot Mott, fired once, with an AR 15,” Graham testified.
Testimony was scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. this morning with the prosecution calling additional witnesses.
Judge Michael V. Repella, II set five days aside for the trial. The prosecution has 11 witnesses scheduled to testify. The defense did not provide a list of witnesses.
Cole is charged with murder and felonious assault.
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