Trenton killer gets 14 years in connection with 2013 homicide

DaShawn Bethea stood solemn in khaki prison garb before a Mercer County Judge as he received a sentence of 14 years in the death of 61-year-old Berkley McDaniel in June of 2013 on Friday.

The 27-year-old was sentenced in accordance with a negotiated plea deal for manslaughter and aggravated assault in two violent cases in Trenton.

DaShawn Bethea

DaShawn Bethea

McDaniel’s family said in court they did not know Bethea, but they questioned why he would have committed such a violent act against McDaniel. In spite of Bethea’s crime that took McDaniel’s life – the family forgave him in letters and before the court. McDaniel was not Bethea’s intended victim, but an innocent bystander who was struck amid wild gunfire on Stuyvesant Avenue that night.

McDaniel’s wife, who was not present at the hearing, had her voice heard through a letter addressed to the court. McDaniel received the awful news while she was at work that Berkley McDaniel had been shot in the head in Trenton. Through the letter his wife said that they did not know Bethea, but questioned why he would commit such a brutal crime.

“Berkley is gone, we will forever remember him. Nothing can bring him back,” she said in the letter read to the court by Assistant Prosecutor William Fisher. The family asked that the court punish Bethea to the fullest extent of the law.
McDaniel’s sister Cynthia McDaniel-Hankins, who made the journey with family from Virginia, addressed the court in a letter and in person.

“You have hurt two families, the McDaniel family and your own,” McDaniel-Hankins wrote in a letter to the court. “You are a young man; we pray that you have begun to change your life for the better. Every day we remind you of the special moments we spent with him. There is nothing that can be done to bring Berkley back to us.”
The oldest of six siblings, Billy McDaniel, passed away before knowing if justice would be served in his brother’s death, McDaniel-Hankins’ letter said.

“So I say today to Mr., Bethea, we forgive you for what you’ve done. I understand that they’re telling me that you didn’t intend to shoot my brother, but I wish you the best,” McDaniel-Hankins said while fighting a flood of emotion before the court. “As you grow older, I hope that you will be able to turn your life around and you will be able to come out of jail and be productive. I don’t know anything about you sir, but I forgive you.”
Bethea was given a chance to speak and he addressed the court expressing his apologies to both McDaniel’s family and his own.

“I never intended to hurt Mr. McDaniel. He was a good man, I knew him personally,” Bethea said. “I know it hurt right now, because there’s nothing I can say to bring Mr. McDaniel back.

Bethea expressed that despite McDaniel’s death he never intended to kill [McDaniel] , and that he’s a “kindhearted dude.” Bethea then asked for the family’s forgiveness stating, “I hope you all forgive me, later on down the line. I know it’s hard right now.”

Judge Peter Warshaw then imposed the recommended sentence of 14-years on the aggravated manslaughter, and a seven-year sentence on a separate aggravated assault that will run concurrently.

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