Murder of SP native takes new turn with appeal filed by one defendant

March 26, 2008
Santa Paula News

One of the defendants who entered a guilty plea in the murder of a Santa Paula native is appealing his conviction in the late 2005 shooting death of Paul Berkley in a North Carolina park.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesOne of the defendants who entered a guilty plea in the murder of a Santa Paula native is appealing his conviction in the late 2005 shooting death of Paul Berkley in a North Carolina park. A U.S. Navy Reservist, Berkley, 46, had just returned from serving overseas when he was shot to death in a North Raleigh park on December 18, 2005.Monique Berkley, 28, Paul’s widow, and her lover Andrew Canty, 20, are both serving life sentences in state prisons after pleading guilty to first-degree murder early in 2006.The third defendant, Latwon Johnson, 20, appealed the 23-year prison sentence he received late last year just weeks after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Johnson’s spokesman said he had hoped for a lesser sentence after cooperating fully with police and prosecutors.
Johnson was an 18-year-old freshman at East Carolina University at the time he helped drive Canty to and from the crime scene, where Monique Berkley had lured her husband with the promise of a romantic rendezvous. Both Canty and Johnson were high school friends with Paul Berkley’s teenage son and daughter.The motive for the murder was Berkley’s life insurance and to avoid the divorce that Paul Berkley allegedly was about to seek because of his discovery of the affair between his wife and Canty.Monique Berkley, born of a prominent Tampa, Florida family, moved to California about eight years ago to live with a woman she met on the Internet in a gay and lesbian chat room. In 1999, the two women were united in a religious ceremony at a church in Santa Paula.Monique left her partner - who subsequently underwent a sex change operation - on her partner’s birthday for Berkley. Paul Berkley and Monique married in Las Vegas - about four years before his murder - and the couple moved to North Carolina.



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