Man apologizes to victim’s family before murder sentence. It made a difference.

Mark Stiles’ mother says she wants justice for her son

Loretta Prevo talks about her son Mark Stiles, who was shot and killed Thursday, May 17, 2018, near the J building at Camelot Village in Chapel Hill. Keon Tramel Council, 21, was charged with murder in the killing.
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Loretta Prevo talks about her son Mark Stiles, who was shot and killed Thursday, May 17, 2018, near the J building at Camelot Village in Chapel Hill. Keon Tramel Council, 21, was charged with murder in the killing.

Before 23-year-old Keon Tramel Council was sentenced Wednesday for second-degree murder for fatally shooting Mark Stiles last year, he asked to make a statement.

Going against his lawyer’s advice, he turned and looked at Stiles’ mother in the courtroom and said he was sorry for killing her 52-year-old son.

“I just want to apologize, and I know that’s not going to do much, but it wasn’t supposed to happen like that,” Council said tentatively.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Carl Fox sentenced Council to 20 years and 8 months to 25 years and 10 months in prison. That’s less time than the prosecutor proposed — a minimum sentence of 23 years. After the hearing, Fox told lawyers the apology, and Council’s remorse, influenced his decision.

The shooting happened in the evening of May 17, 2018, in the Camelot Village apartment complex in Chapel Hill, one of the two homicides in the town last year. The complex is off Estes Drive across from University Place.

While prosecutor Anna Orr and Council’s defense attorney, Phoebe Dee, disagreed about some of the circumstances surrounding the shooting, they both agreed that an argument between Council and Stiles led to a physical altercation, and then the shooting.

Both said Stiles chased Council around the corner of a building to his car where Council retrieved his gun and shot Stiles six times. Council’s girlfriend was the only witness to the shooting.

Dee said Council was running away from Stiles out of fear. He was smaller than Stiles, and he was protecting himself and his girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time, Dee said.

Stiles died the following day at UNC Hospitals, The News & Observer previously reported.

Mark David Stiles, 52, was fatally shot Thursday, May 17, 2018, at Camelot Village in Chapel Hill. courtesy of the family

Several members of Council’s family were at Wednesday’s hearing, including his girlfriend at the time he was arrested, and his son, who was born while he was in jail.

Stiles’ mother, Loretta Prevo, 80, sat behind Orr.

Dee called Council’s legal guardian Janice Harper to the stand to talk about Council’s health and character that may have contributed to his actions.

Council’s mother entrusted Harper as his legal guardian when she fell on hard times, Harper said. Harper said he was born addicted to cocaine and suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He struggled to find ways to cope with it his whole life, Harper said.

Dee argued Council’s background influenced his behavior during the initial altercation and the shooting.

Fox said Council had five previous convictions on his record. The News & Observer reported last year that three of those were misdemeanor charges: larceny from a person in 2014 and simple assault and larceny in 2015, according to court records. He was sentenced to probation on all three charges.

Council said he wanted to make his statement after Harper’s testimony.

Following a break in court, and despite Dee and Fox advising against it, Council turned to Prevo and apologized.

“The heartache that his mother is going through is something you would go through if something happened to your child like this,” Fox told Council following his apology.

Prevo then yelped and bent forward. She was escorted out of the courtroom. Orr said after the hearing that she had been taken to the hospital.

Last year, Prevo told The News & Observer that her son was an extrovert who believed in Jesus, liked lifting weights and read National Geographic magazines. He was an electrician for about 15 years.

“It is just a hard process to lose a child,” she said then. “He was my baby boy.”

After Council left the courtroom, Fox told the lawyers he was impressed with Council’s apology.

“That’s why I didn’t give him the maximum sentence,” he said.

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Ashad Hajela reports on public safety for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He studied journalism at New York University.