This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
In the early hours of Sept. 2, 1994, Curtis Ricardo Council, 20, would be taken away from his new family forever.
He had just arrived at his grandmother’s house from the Raines versus Ribault High School rivalry football game. Council and his friend Akbar Perkins, 20, received a page to Council’s beeper. After that alert, Council and Perkins left the home.
Backing out of the driveway, Council stopped and Perkins got out of the car to close the gate behind them. That was the last moment the friends had together.
Hidden by the black night, a group of masked men were waiting for them in a ditch next to Council’s grandmother’s house.
Council didn’t have time to react when one of the men pulled a 12- gauge shotgun and shot him while he was still sitting in the front seat.
When Perkins tried to fight off the attackers, he had two fingers blown off. He was shot again in the shoulder before he ran for his life. He scaled two fences and made it to safety in a neighbor’s yard.
Nothing was stolen. It was an ambush.
At 3:43 am, Council’s brother, Doug Lewis, received a call from his aunt.
“Your brother got killed.” The line clicked, “Hold on, this is the detective,” his aunt said.
She hung up.
Thinking his aunt was just kidding, Lewis hung up too. But only a few seconds later Council’s mother called.
It was then that Lewis realized the truth. His brother was gone forever.
“I felt disoriented,” Lewis said. “My world turned upside down.”
Council’s mother, Debbie Council, was at her friend’s house that night. Her boyfriend at the time called her and told her there had been a shooting. She was told one of the victims was dead and her mother’s intuition told her the worst.
While driving to the hospital to identify the body, an ambulance rushed past her car. It was that moment she knew then she had lost her son.
The murder occurred just months after Council and his girlfriend had become new parents to a baby girl. She had seemed to change his life.
According to Lewis, Council was always shopping for her clothes, spending time with her and fully committed to being a father.
“He was all about her,” Lewis said.
To Council’s mother, she said she still feels the empty void nearly 25 years after her son’s murder.
Council grew up at Hollybrook Apartments on Kings Street in downtown Jacksonville with four siblings. He loved music and playing his favorite game, basketball. He attended Lee High school, however, he dropped out in 1993.
His mother said her son was a good child and was willing to stand up for himself.
“He never looked for trouble,” she said, “but if there was an altercation, he wouldn’t walk away.”
That might have gotten him into trouble, as his mother heard Council had gotten into an altercation with someone at the football game he attended the night of his murder. She believes a group may have followed him home and waited for their chance to attack.
When Council’s beeper went off and signaled him and Perkins to leave, they certainly got that chance. Council’s family thinks the page Council received was a lure to get Council and Perkins outside the house to be attacked.
The only evidence left at the scene was a baseball cap found on the ground outside the car. It wasn’t Council’s, according to his brother. He rarely wore hats.
Richelle Starling, a Logistical Technical Service Officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit, said the baseball cap was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for DNA testing but no DNA evidence was found.
Starling also informed that, in 2012, the case was given a DNA grant to test the baseball cap again with different and more updated DNA technology. Again, nothing was found.
In 2014, the case was reviewed once more. The second victim, Perkins, who is in prison for possession of cocaine, wanted more information from the detectives to see if there were any suspects after all this time.
Nothing new was found.
But through all the dead ends, Council’s family is still fighting for answers.
“Someone knew Curtis and Akbar were coming back outside the house,” Lewis said. “Someone ambushed them.”
The family continues to hope that someone will come forward – someone with information on Council’s killing.
“I have no idea who killed Curtis. Not even the detectives knew,” Council’s mother said through tears.
She said she believes that her son was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“It’s been 23 years and sometimes I still cry.”
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