Local News

Father won't face death penalty in boy's death

Posted November 4, 2010 12:55 p.m. EDT

— Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline said Thursday that she won't seek the death penalty against a man charged with killing his 4-year-old son in September.

Joseph Anthony Mitchell, 46, of 17 Thistle Trace in Hillsborough, has been charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. He remains in safe-keeping custody at Central Prison in Raleigh.

Blake Mitchell was killed early Sept. 22 in the family home. A Durham County Sheriff's Office investigator has said the boy's injuries were consistent with suffocation or strangulation.

Two other children in the home at the time, Devon Mitchell, 10, and Lexi Mitchell, 13, 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.

Joseph Mitchell was found with stab wounds and cuts that authorities say were self-inflicted.

The family had suffered numerous financial setbacks, and neither Joseph Mitchell nor his wife had reliable incomes, investigators said.

According to court records, the family's house in the Hardscrabble Plantation subdivision was foreclosed on in mid-June. Numerous papers had been served on the family in an effort to collect on other debts, according to a search warrant.

Investigators seized information on life insurance policies, including policies on the three children, from the home.

District Judge William Marsh on Tuesday signed a judgment in which Joseph Mitchell agreed to give his wife ownership of five vehicles, all of his personal property in their home and any stocks he has.

Christine Mitchell sought the property to help support the couple's two surviving children, according to court records.