Donnie Council was sentenced to death by the State of South Carolina for the sexual assault and murder of seventy two year old Elizabeth Gatti. According to court documents Donnie Council would sexually assault, murder Elizabeth Gatti before robbing her home. Donnie Council would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Donnie Council 2021 Information
Admission Date: 10/23/1996
Location: Broad River
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Late Thursday afternoon, October 8, 1992, Evelyn Helminiak visited with her neighbor Elizabeth Gatti, a seventy-two year old widow. Mrs. Gatti was preparing dinner when Mrs. Helminiak arrived. The next day, another neighbor, Charles Fields, became concerned about Mrs. Gatti because her morning newspaper was still in the driveway and her car was gone. Mr. Fields testified Mrs. Gatti was a creature of habit who retrieved her newspaper every morning at 4:30 a.m., read the paper, and threw it over to Mr. Fields’ driveway by 8:00 a.m. so he could read it. When the newspaper was still in the driveway and the car was still gone on Friday evening, Mr. Fields called emergency services.
When the authorities entered Mrs. Gatti’s house, perishable food items were found on the kitchen counter. Several of the rooms in Mrs. Gatti’s house had been ransacked. Mrs. Gatti’s body was discovered underneath a bedspread in her basement. She had been hogtied with a white cord and layers of duct tape were wrapped around her entire head. Her clothes had been ripped, and the crotch of her underwear had been cut out. Surrounding her body were various bottles of cleaning fluids. Mrs. Gatti had been sexually assaulted.
Dr. Nichols, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Mrs. Gatti, testified her body was covered with numerous lacerations and bruises, and someone had attempted to manually strangle her. Further, a gaping laceration extending from her vagina into the rectal area indicated penetration by a very stiff foreign object. Dr. Nichols testified the cause of death was asphyxiation due to mechanical suffocation as a result of the duct tape, and contributory to the cause of death was the ingestion and aspiration of cleaning fluids and the binding ligatures on the wrists. Dr. Nichols testified the aspiration indicated Mrs. Gatti was forced to drink the cleaning fluids. According to Dr. Nichols, Mrs. Gatti lived 2-4 hours after the vaginal/rectal injury occurred.
On October 11, 1992, the authorities found Mrs. Gatti’s car near an apartment complex where appellant sometimes stayed. Appellant was arrested for the crimes on October 12, 1992. In two separate statements, appellant admitted to being in Mrs. Gatti’s house on the night she was killed; however, he asserted he had gone to her house with a man identified as “Frankie J.” 3 APPELLANT DENIED ANY Wrongdoing; instead, he blamed the crimes on his companion. Appellant admitted, however, to SLED agent Wayne Mitchell that he had sexual intercourse with Mrs. Gatti. Further, appellant told SLED agent Danny Choate and Captain Wayne Huff, an investigator for the Aiken County Sheriff’s Department, that he had sex with Mrs. Gatti.
A shoeprint taken from a chair in Mrs. Gatti’s house was identified as matching shoes taken from appellant. Residue found on the chair positively matched debris found on appellant’s shoes. Fingerprints taken from Mrs. Gatti’s car and from items in her car were identified as belonging to appellant. Hair samples taken from appellant were consistent with hairs found in Mrs. Gatti’s home. Semen taken from a tissue in Mrs. Gatti’s house was consistent with appellant’s semen. Several items identified as belonging to Mrs. Gatti were found in appellant’s girlfriend’s apartment.
Appellant’s girlfriend’s cousin, Earthlene Danley, testified she was in Mrs. Gatti’s car with appellant the day after Mrs. Gatti’s murder and had been with appellant when he went to a bank drive-thru in North Augusta and cashed a check he took from the glove compartment of Mrs. Gatti’s car. Further, the testimony of bank employees and handwriting experts established appellant had forged three of Mrs. Gatti’s checks and cashed them at various banks.
Mrs. Gatti’s newspaper carrier positively identified appellant as the man she saw leaving Mrs. Gatti’s house in the early morning hours of Friday, October 9, 1992.