Police charge man after investigation in a July West Ashley murder

Police charge man after investigation in a July West Ashley murder
Antwayne Joseph Mikell (Source: Al Cannon Detention Center)

WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Police Department says they have charged a man in connection to a murder and planned drug conspiracy in West Ashley.

Antwayne Joseph Mikell, 42 ,has been charged with murder and conspiracy to violate controlled substance law after an incident on the night of July 29, affidavits state.

Officers say they were first called to the incident of the murder at around 10:25 p.m. after gunshots were reported in 2000 block of Ashley River Road. When they arrived at the Radius Apartments, police say they encountered Mikell standing in the same parking lot as Justin Orenstein, a man who had sustained several apparent gunshots to his body.

Mikell explained that he had just heard gunfire in the complex and then guided officers to Orenstein who had just been shot in front of a different building in the complex, officers say.

Affidavits state that when officers found Ornstein, he was positioned beside the front passenger door of a white Lexus and EMS transported him to MUSC for life saving measures that proved unsuccessful.

The Charleston Police Department conducted a full investigation of the crime scene and vehicle where they say they found empty shell casings near the rear of the vehicle and fingerprints identified as belonging to a separate individual in the car.

Detectives say they interviewed several residents who witnessed gunfire from the parking lot, one dark figure standing over Orenstein and another man running west, away from the location.

Affidavits state the man seen running, fled through a grassy section that was concealed with trees and garages.

When Charleston police conducted an interview with Mikell at the scene, Police say Mikell tried to understate his affiliation with Orenstein by saying he had merely encountered Orenstein that night when Orenstein asked Mikell for a cigarette.

Mikell said that he went into his apartment to retrieve a lighter for Orenstein and during this time, the gunshots were heard, affidavits state. Additionally the affidavit states Mikell said he had no idea who shot Orenstein and had never met the him before.

Detectives say they followed up with Orenstein’s family who said Orenstein had been heavily involved in the illegal narcotics trade and urged detectives to speak to Orenstein’s “longtime close friend”, Mikell.

Detectives say this immediately aroused their suspicion of Mikell.

When questioned a second time, detectives say Mikell changed his statement and acknowledged having phone contact with Orenstein earlier that evening, referring to Orenstein as his ‘brother’.

Affidavits state that Mikell said Orenstein had asked him if he could park his car in Mikell’s parking lot while Orenstein “rendezvoused” with a woman, reaffirming that Mikell had briefly met with Orenstein in the parking lot before retrieving a lighter for the victim.

Police however say they found a lighter in Orenstein’s pocket when they conducted a search of Orenstein’s clothing.

Due to the fact that Mikell had provided three contradictory statements, police say they seized Mikell’s phone and conducted a search warrant through his calls and messages.

Detectives say upon the search, they discovered 12 phone calls to Orenstein within 90 minutes of the murder.

In addition, affidavits state Mikell also received a large number of calls traced to a man who fit the description given by witnesses as the man seen fleeing the apartment complex after the murder.

Utilizing the search warrant of both Mikell and the second man contacted’s numbers, detectives say they learned the number traced to the phone had been canceled the day after the murder. Additionally, affidavits state that detectives were able to use cellphone towers to trace the location of the second phone number to the area of the apartment complex at the time of the murder.

Detectives say they also met with a witness who claimed to know both Mikell and the man in possession of the second phone number. Affidavits state that the witness disclosed that they were present at a drug transaction between Orenstein, Mikell and the man in possession of the second phone, when Orenstein purchased 7 grams of cocaine and failed to pay the owner of the second cellphone number.

Upon another interview with Mikell Aug. 10, detectives say Mikell changed his story again, explaining that he had intended to purchase 42 grams of marijuana from Orenstein the night of the murder. Affidavits state no marijuana was found in any of the searches and this element was only included in Mikell’s story after being confronted about interactions with the man in possession of the second phone number contacted by Mikell that evening.

As a result of these facts, affidavits state that probable cause was established to charge Mikell with both murder and conspiracy to violate controlled substance law.

The man in possession of the second phone number called has not been charged.

Mikell is being held in the Al Cannon Detention Center and has not been assigned bond.

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