Three days after a Navy reservist flew home from the Middle East for the holidays, his wife's teenage lover and a friend killed him on a wooded trail in a North Raleigh park, according to accounts from police and relatives.
Monique Berkley, 26, was charged Monday in what officials say was the calculated murder of her husband, Paul Berkley, 46. Andrew Canty and his friend Latwon Johnson, both 18, also were charged with murder in Berkley's killing before dawn Sunday.
"He was over there getting shot at, and he comes home to get shot," said Chaz Jutting of Apex, a fellow Navy reservist. "It's just unreal."
Paul and Monique Berkley ended up in Millbrook Exchange Park off Spring Forest Road on a rainy night when temperatures dipped into the 30s. Paul Berkley was shot in the head there and died 14 hours later at WakeMed-Raleigh Campus. In the violence, Monique Berkley somehow took a bullet in the shoulder.
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Canty and Johnson appeared before a judge Monday afternoon and asked for lawyers, who had not been appointed by late Monday. Both remained in the Wake County jail without bail.
Police escorted Monique Berkley out of WakeMed in her hospital gown Monday to check her into jail. She will be arraigned today.
Paul Berkley, a California native, moved to Clayton in 2003 so he and his wife could be closer to her family, said his mother-in-law, Susan Wheeler. Before his deployment with a Navy Reserve unit based in Raleigh, Berkley worked as a technician for a now-defunct computer company in Louisburg, Jutting said.
Berkley had two failed marriages before he met Monique Wheeler in California, Susan Wheeler said. They married about five years ago in Las Vegas.
The new couple reared Berkley's teenage children -- Becky and Ezekiel Berkley -- in a home in a quiet Clayton neighborhood.
Paul Berkley, whose reserve detachment moves equipment from ship to shore, shipped out in January, Jutting said. He had been based in Bahrain but often ran missions in and out of Kuwait and Iraq. Berkley never suspected problems at home, Jutting said.
Tending to children
Monique Berkley tended to her husband's children. She always said she was managing just fine when Jutting, at Paul Berkley's urgings, called to check up. She enjoyed being a stepmother, Wheeler said.
Monique Berkley met Canty last fall through her stepchildren, who were fellow students with Canty at Clayton High School, said Christine Canty, the accused man's mother. Johnson, a freshman business major at East Carolina University, began dating Becky Berkley, a junior, Christine Canty said.
This year, Canty told his mother that he and Monique Berkley had begun a sexual relationship, Christine Canty said. He moved in with her in April, a few months after her husband shipped out.
Canty drove Monique Berkley's car; she paid his cell phone bill, Christine Canty said.
Monique Berkley showered Canty with love notes, a pile of which fanned across a heap of Canty's clothes and computer games in his mother's home Monday.
A postcard she sent Canty from Busch Gardens picturing two tigers hinted at the woman's interest in the teenager: "That white tiger looks like she is about to attack that colored tiger. I bet she'll devour him. Reminds me of us."
Berkley comes home
A day after Paul Berkley came back into town last week, Canty hauled his gear home to his mother's.
Canty and Johnson slept at Christine Canty's Clayton home Thursday and Friday. They played video games on Canty's new Xbox and snacked on junk food. On Saturday, Canty told his mother they were headed to Greenville to hang out in Johnson's dorm room for the rest of the weekend.
At the Berkley house, Paul Berkley was updating buddies about his return home on a Web log he had maintained during his tour:
"I watched my son sing the other night in a program put on by the chorus he is in. They started with the Star Spangled Banner, before which Zeke came up to the mic and welcomed me home, which was sweet. He also did a solo performance right about the middle of the show that really pleased the crowd. Last night Becky and I watched Hindi movies and ate pizza. She had never seen any Hindi movies and was really amused...we started dancing and doing the melodramatic moves they do in the movies, cracking ourselves up in the process."
Paul Berkley posted at 6:51 p.m.
At 3 a.m., Monique Berkley called for help on her cell phone and directed police down a wooded path in the park to her wounded husband.
Raleigh police offered no details about the moments before the shooting. They also declined to say what kind of gun was used or why the couple went to the park.
Johnson's parents, who live in a subdivision on the outskirts of Selma, less than 10 miles from Canty's house, never knew their boy was in town this weekend. They hadn't seen him since Thanksgiving, said his father, James Johnson, when he visited home and bragged about his time at ECU.
"This is completely out of character for Latwon," James Johnson said Monday, hours after hearing of his son's arrest on the radio on his drive to work. "I'm shocked; I'm hurt. He knew right from wrong."
Wheeler, Monique Berkley's mother, issued a statement on behalf of her family Monday night:
"Monique is our family, and we love her. We can't imagine in any circumstances the chain of events that led to this tragedy. Monique has no history of violence and comes from a loving and caring family. We are truly saddened by Paul's death. We send our thoughts and our prayers to Zeke and Becky and to the rest of the Berkley family."
Christine Canty said Monday that she had been bickering with her son about his affair with Monique Berkley for the better part of a year.
Her temper flared again as she sorted through her son's clothes and video games, which were piled next to the base of a half-decorated Christmas tree.
"She didn't sit right with me from the moment I met her," said Christine Canty, who moved to Clayton with her children from New York two years ago. "It bothered me because she was older, and I wondered why she was hanging out with my son.
"He figured he was a grown man and could do what he wanted."
(News researchers Susan Ebbs and Brooke Cain contributed to this report.)