Police have not disclosed a motive for the death of a man whose body was pulled from a fire April 1 in Southeast Raleigh, but family members think Curtis Lamont Mitchell was targeted for a robbery.
Mitchell’s mother, Angela Mitchell, said her son had more than $700 deposited onto his Social Security debit card the night he left home in search of an ATM last week. The balance was just $7 after his body was found in a burning house on Poole Road the next day, she said.
Family members think someone knew about Mitchell’s debit card and lured him to the house, which Angela Mitchell described as a place where “homeless people go in and out.”
“I’m thinking it was all about the money,” she said. “The police didn’t find his phone.”
Investigators have determined Mitchell’s death was a homicide, but they have not made an arrest or disclosed how Mitchell, 32, died.
Angela Mitchell says her son planned to use his Social Security debit card at a nearby ATM when he left the apartment they shared on Hawkins Street, just off New Bern Avenue, late on the night of March 31. Mitchell had mental disabilities, including bipolar disorder, that qualified him for Social Security.
Angela Mitchell said her son wanted to get some money to pay his cellphone bill. She said the last thing she told him was to wait until morning because she did not want him out at night.
Despite her warning, Angela Mitchell thinks her son went out sometime after midnight. Mitchell did not return home.
On April 2, Angela Mitchell called police to file a missing persons report. That’s when police told her about a fire that had been deliberately set sometime before 5:30 a.m. the day before in an abandoned, one-story brick home at 2801 Poole Road, near the entrance of St. Joseph Catholic Church.
Firefighters had found a body inside the badly burned home, but investigators did not know who it was.
“The officer who responded to the missing persons call realized there could be a connection between the missing person and the deceased male at the fire scene,” said police spokesman Jim Sughrue. “That officer called detectives. The detectives got involved and determined they were one and the same.”
The police would not show Angela Mitchell her son’s body.
“I couldn’t see him because he was burned up,” she said as her eyes filled with tears and spilled down her face.
“I recognized the keys I gave him to get in and out the house. It was his keys. It was his keys,” Mitchell said twice before she was overcome with emotion and went inside her home to weep.
A funeral wreath hung next to the front door of the Mitchell home Tuesday.
Family and neighbors described Mitchell as a quiet, kind person who rarely ventured from home.
“He always stayed to himself,” said his sister, Denise Ragland. “He never bothered anybody.”
Besides the stores along New Bern Avenue, Mitchell was often seen at Washington Terrace, a strip mall near St. Augustine’s University where he would pay his Cricket cellphone bill at a Boost mobile outlet. He would also walk in the opposite direction toward Poole Road and shop at the Longview Grocery.
Employees at Longview wondered Tuesday why someone would have to kill Mitchell if all they wanted was his money.
Angela Mitchell has an indelible image of her son: At some point each day he would walk to a nearby convenience store and buy himself Ice House beer, come home to the front porch on Hawkins Street, find a radio station on his cellphone and listen to rap music and dance.
“He just stayed happy,” she said. “He’d do a little dance, drink his Ice House and look at me. Do his little dance, drink his Ice House and look at me until I smiled and told him, ‘Boy, go on away from here.’”
Mitchell was the oldest of five brothers and one sister. Angela Mitchell and her family moved from Zebulon to Raleigh four years ago.
“I had been living in Zebulon all my life,” she said. “But now I wish I had never moved to Raleigh.”
Ragland has established a Go Fund Me account to raise money to help bury her brother. Meanwhile, police ask anyone with information about Curtis Mitchell’s death to call the Raleigh Police Department at 919-834-4357.