WOODBURY — Police have arrested a former resident of a Woodbury house where a 26-year-old woman who was housesitting there was found beaten to death in September.
At the Gloucester County Courthouse on Friday, seven members of the victim's family flanked investigators as the charges against Brandon Wilson, 19, of Paulsboro, were read, including a charge of first-degree murder.
Shawneeq Carter, of Camden, was housesitting for a friend when Wilson allegedly broke in, intending to commit a burglary, when the attack occurred on Sept. 21, authorities said. Carter's 5-year-old son and another child were asleep in the house but remained unaware of what happened. The victim's body was found two days later, Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton said. She had suffered injuries to her head.
"Shawneeq was doing a favor for a friend. She was housesitting," Dalton said. "She just happened to be there at the time he broke in."
"I take flowers to her grave site every Sunday. … This Sunday I get to go and tell her some good news," said Sean Carter, the victim's father, of the announcement of the arrest.
Sean Carter attended the press briefing along with his wife and several of his children. The family members declined to speak to the media on Friday but could be heard afterward in the hallways of the courthouse discussing the killing and what might have happened during the final moments of their loved one's life.
Sean Carter had previously said in interviews that it was his grandson — Shawneeq Carter's son — and the boy's cousin, who had found the woman dead the morning after the killing. The pair of children, not wanting to leave Shawneeq alone, "didn't know what to do" and apparently waited another day before leaving the house to seek help.
Dalton said Wilson is currently being detained in the Cape May County jail on unrelated charges and will be arraigned via a teleconference hearing scheduled for Saturday.
"We will ask that the court detain him for the pendency of this case until this matter is either adjudicated by a plea of guilty to first-degree murder or this case proceeds to trial," Dalton said.
Besides first-degree murder, Wilson is also charged with second-degree burglary in which a homicide occurred; two counts of possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose; two counts of endangering the welfare of child, because minors were in the home at the time of the homicide; and a third-degree charge of hindering his apprehension by asking his parents to dispose of two pairs of sneakers that may have been related to the homicide.
Wilson had been released the day before the killing from the Bucks County Correctional Facility, where he had served time on a drug charge, according to investigators. 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. He was found guilty of that offense and obstruction of justice in connection with providing false information.
A surveillance video captured images of Wilson along Hopkins Street at the time of the murder and investigators found DNA evidence connecting Wilson to the crime scene on a windowsill on the exterior of the house, an imprint of a shoe on a rear door, along with other pieces of physical evidence, Dalton said.
Investigators had obtained as many as 30 search warrants and had "tirelessly" conducted the investigation that eventually led to the charges against Wilson, Dalton said.
"This killing has certainly impacted not only the Carter family, but the entire city of Woodbury," Dalton said.