Home for Christmas after nearly a year in the Middle East, Navy Reservist Paul Berkley was making up for lost time with his family.
He arrived Wednesday, in time to hear his 18-year-old son, Zeke, sing the national anthem with his high school chorus. On Friday, he and 16-year-old daughter Becky ate pizza, watched movies and danced.
By Sunday, the 46-year-old sailor was dead, shot once in the head during a walk in the park with his wife, Monique. She now stands charged with his slaying, along with two men — her alleged teenage lover and her stepdaughter Becky’s boyfriend.
“It’s all just so ironic, isn’t it?” Becky Berkley wrote Tuesday on her own blog, MistressBecky, as her stepmother was making her first court appearance. “My dad was in the Middle East for months and months and didn’t get shot... then he came home, where you’d assume he’d be much safer... and then, all this happened.”
Monique Berkley, 26, was ordered jailed without bond. Andrew Canty, the man who moved in with her during her husband’s deployment, and Latwon Johnson, both 18, also were denied bond. They were in the process of being assigned public defenders.
The shooting occurred early Sunday morning, four days after Berkley returned from Bahrain for Christmas break.
A breathless Monique Berkley, bleeding from a gunshot wound to her left shoulder, called for help on her cell phone at 2:57 a.m., saying the couple had been attacked by two unseen men. Paul Berkley’s gurgling, tortured breathing could clearly be heard on a 15-minute 911 tape.
Mrs. Berkley’s screams led police down a wooded path, where they found her bent over her husband, who died in a hospital later that day.
Police would not release details of the case. But a picture is emerging of a marriage on the rocks.
Friends say the couple was married five years ago in Las Vegas and moved to the Raleigh suburb of Clayton in 2003 so Monique Berkley — his third wife — could be closer to family. Paul Berkley, a native of Santa Paula, Calif., who worked as a computer technician, joined a local Navy Reserve unit.
Berkley deployed in January as part of a unit that moves equipment from ship to shore. If he suspected anything was wrong at home, it wasn’t reflected in his blog.
“Oh, 16 days till Xmas vacation and I am getting antsy,” he wrote in a posting two days after Thanksgiving. “I know I have to come back again, probably for a long time, but I’m still pretty jazzed I am going home however briefly.”
Canty’s mother, Christine Canty, told The News & Observer of Raleigh that her son met Monique Berkley last fall through the Berkley children, who were fellow students at the high school. She said he moved into the Berkley home in April and only retrieved his things the day after Paul Berkley returned.
Affair after husband's departure
Christine Canty told the newspaper that she had been bickering with her son about his affair with Monique Berkley for the better part of a year.
“She didn’t sit right with me from the moment I met her,” she told the paper. “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.”
Johnson, a freshman business major at East Carolina University, began dating Becky Berkley, Christine Canty told the newspaper. Police have not suggested that Becky Berkley was involved in the crime.
This year, Andrew Canty told his mother that he and Monique Berkley had begun a sexual relationship, Christine Canty told The News & Observer. He allegedly moved in with her in April, a few months after her husband shipped out.
“We can’t imagine in any circumstances the chain of events that led to this tragedy,” Susan Wheeler, Monique Berkley’s mother said in a statement issued Monday. “Monique has no history of violence and comes from a loving and caring family. We are truly saddened by Paul’s death.”