A South Jersey man who beat a house sitter to death in his former childhood home was sentenced Friday to 54 years in prison.

Brandon Wilson, 21, had lived as a foster child in the Woodbury home he broke into in September 2017, intending to commit a burglary, prosecutors said. Once there, he encountered Shawneeq Carter, 26, and fatally bludgeoned her with a metal bar from a weight bench.

Carter’s body was found by her 5-year-old son and the boy’s 5-year-old cousin in the home on Hopkins Street, where Carter was house-sitting for a friend and where the two boys had been asleep at the time of the attack.

“This was an especially cruel and heinous crime,” Superior Court Judge Christine Allen-Jackson said before sentencing Wilson to 50 years on a first-degree murder conviction and four years for receiving stolen property.

Not only did Wilson beat Carter throughout her body with the gym equipment, the judge said, but he also stabbed her with a knife — inflicting “injuries over and above” what was needed to kill her.

Wilson, of Paulsboro, wearing an orange prison shirt and pants, with his hands cuffed in front, declined to comment. During the hearing he showed no emotion, at times yawned, and swiveled in his chair.

His attorney, David Snyder, said Wilson maintains his innocence and was advised not to comment because of a possible appeal. Snyder sought a 33-year prison sentence, three years above the mandatory minimum for the murder conviction.

Wilson was convicted of murder, weapons charges, and related offenses in December after a three-week jury trial.

Assistant Prosecutor Bryant Flowers said in court Friday that Carter’s injuries included a laceration to her brain. “That means he [Wilson] got through her skull with this beating. I think it’s very clear from the evidence that she was alive and fighting him,” said the prosecutor, who asked for a sentence of life in prison.

Carter’s relatives, including her father, Sean, were in the courtroom.

Standing at the prosecutor's table, Sean Carter, Shawneeq Carter's father, speaks at the sentencing hearing for Brandon Wilson (seated at far left). Assistant Prosecutor Bryant Flowers is sitting next to Carter.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Standing at the prosecutor's table, Sean Carter, Shawneeq Carter's father, speaks at the sentencing hearing for Brandon Wilson (seated at far left). Assistant Prosecutor Bryant Flowers is sitting next to Carter.

Sean Carter told the judge that his daughter’s son, Aidyn Heath, now 7, asks numerous questions about his mother, including whether she will recognize him in the afterlife. “I explain to him that it doesn’t matter if you’re 7 or 70. The day your mother sees you, she’ll know who you are,” he said.

Carter also said that although he was raised in Camden’s housing projects, he took pains to make sure his daughter was not raised there. He told reporters afterward that she grew up in Pennsauken, and that although she was living in Camden at the time of her death, she had only lived there about six months.

Shawneeq Carter’s body was found by authorities two days after the killing.

Shawneeq Carter
Courtesy of family
Shawneeq Carter

The victim’s father had previously told reporters that his young grandson and the boy’s cousin initially “didn’t know what to do” when they saw her body the next morning and apparently waited another day before leaving the house to seek help.

Wilson had lived at the Woodbury home in 2015 for less than a year as a foster child and had been arrested there for trespassing in August 2016, prosecutors have said.

Snyder, the defense attorney, said his client had a history of substance abuse, and although he had convictions on charges for theft, commercial burglaries, and drug cases, he had no history of violent offenses.

Wilson, who had been jailed in Bucks County for failing to appear in court on misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession, was released the day before the murder. Authorities say he stole a car near the jail and used it to drive to Woodbury and commit the crime.

Wilson will be able to apply for parole eligibility after serving 85 percent of the 50 years on his murder conviction, the judge said Friday.

His parents, David Wilson, 54, and Kim Ward, 52, were sentenced Friday by Allen-Jackson to probation for hindering the police investigation into Carter’s killing. They pleaded guilty to the hindering charge in November.