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Hospitalized father charged with killing son

Posted September 24, 2010
Updated September 27, 2010

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— A Durham County man was charged Friday with killing his 4-year-old son early Wednesday, and deputies released more details of their investigation of the crime.

Joseph Anthony Mitchell, 46, of 17 Thistle Trace in Hillsborough, was recuperating in Duke University Hospital from what investigators say are self-inflicted stab wounds when he was served with arrest warrants charging him with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

A magistrate also went to the hospital and ordered that Mitchell be held without bond in the Durham County jail upon his release from the hospital. Late Friday, Mitchell was taken to Central Prison for safe-keeping.

Blake Mitchell was killed early Wednesday in the family home, and an investigator said the boy's injuries were consistent with suffocation or strangulation.

Two other children in the home at the time, 10-year-old Devon Mitchell and 13-year-old Lexi Mitchell, told investigators that they awoke to find their father trying to cover their mouths or faces, and they had to fend him off, according to a search warrant.

At some point during the attack, Mitchell's wife, Christine, ran to another part of the house trying to get help for her children, said Lt. Stan Harris of the Durham County Sheriff's Office.

Joseph Mitchell Father charged in hospital with killing son

Harris said investigators are trying to be as sensitive as possible in gathering information from the family.

"We are very cognizant of their mental state right now and their emotional state, so we don't want to push too hard," he said. "When you have children, especially for those of us who have younger children, it hits home. It hits you right in the heart."

Investigators took two computers and information on life insurance policies, including policies on the three children, from the home. They also seized a mask, a knife, two gloves, a envelope from BB&T addressed to Joseph Mitchell and other items from the house, according to the search warrant.

The family had suffered numerous financial setbacks, and neither Joseph nor Christine Mitchell had reliable incomes, investigators said. Friends said that Mitchell, an EMS worker, had been unemployed for about a year, and his wife was also out of work.

According to court records, the family's house in the Hardscrabble Plantation subdivision was foreclosed on in mid-June. Investigators said the house was supposed to be turned over to a bank in the coming weeks.

Numerous papers had been served on the family in an effort to collect on other debts, according to the search warrant.

Joseph Mitchell handled all of the family's finances, and his wife told investigators that she thought all of the financial problems had been resolved in the family's favor.

"Whether (the financial troubles) played a major role or not, we are just not at liberty to say right now," Harris said.

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  • pheonix rising Sep 27, 2010

    The N&O article provides more info on this family. Mr. Mitchell worked as an EMT, which means he earned between $8-$12/hr. Mrs. Mitchell was a stay at home mom who sold Avon. They purchased the house in 2001 for approx. $340,000. The article also mentioned they have four cars!! These people have had financial problems for four years and during all that time weren't willing to give up their excessive lifestyle! It's very sad when people care more about material possessions and keeping up with the Jones' than their own kids....

  • lilrednekgrl Sep 24, 2010

    this is a very sad situation, and Bo one knows exactly what went on. Just sad to see that Inoscent Children had to be part of this sad situation.

  • k9s Sep 24, 2010

    unbelieveable out quick to judge.... no one should go hungry or be homeless in the United States. One day we will all be judged. Our prayers are with the family. The poor are looked down upon and the rich are talked about. Damned if you do good or you do bad. This family is such pain. Wake up AMerica. Man is destroying the earth. CB

  • k9s Sep 24, 2010

    No one knows exactly what went on. To all concerned very sad situation. People are cruel and very quick to judge. However one day we will all be judged. God Bless you all. People are quick to judge if your poor and quick to judge if you are rich. This world is in very serious pain. Especially the United States. So much wasted money goes towards uselessness. Not one person should go homeless or hungry.

  • didisaythat Sep 24, 2010

    This is a shame and cannot imagine what was going on in his mind to do this. I have seen a lot of death and destruction in my life, but cases like this are the worst.

  • Adelinthe Sep 24, 2010

    Praying for the family.

    God only knows what went on here. Thank God the two older children survived.

    God bless.

    RB

  • rixida Sep 24, 2010

    The man was driven to the edge and snapped, but to kill your kids?. That is an incomprehensible to me. I'm sure he could have done something else. He had to be out of his mind.

  • PirateWorld Sep 24, 2010

    This is just absolutely disturbing that this man would rather kill his children and collect life insurance on them than to lose posessions. Sounds like he was trying to stage a break in. So sad that these children have to grow up knowing their father tried to kill them.

  • UPTOP Sep 24, 2010

    This Man always helped ppl, what ever happened he'll now have to live with for the rest of his life !!!

  • BlueSkys Sep 24, 2010

    agree with shortcake

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