Convicted murderer gets 55 years for slaying Ciony Kirkman in 2016 Trenton shooting

The convicted murderer who shot and killed 16-year-old Ciony Kirkman in a wild April 2016 gunplay incident has finally been punished for his deadly crimes.

Peter Charles Jr. (left) has been convicted of murdering 16-year-old Ciony Kirkman (right) in a brazen April 2016 Trenton shooting. (SUBMITTED PHOTOS)

Peter Charles Jr. (left) has been convicted of murdering 16-year-old Ciony Kirkman (right) in a brazen April 2016 Trenton shooting. (SUBMITTED PHOTOS)

Peter Charles Jr., 20, of Trenton, received a 55-year prison sentence Friday as Superior Court Judge Darlene Pereksta hammered him for having no remorse.

“There has not been any sincere remorse,” she told the defendant from the bench. “You are sorry for yourself and maybe your family. That is not true remorse.”

Pereksta cited Charles’s prior history of violence as a juvenile, his prior history of unchecked drug use and his lack of employment history as aggravating factors. “There were offenses of violence in your past,” she said. “You’ll evolve. I don’t know if you’ll mature.” 

A trial jury convicted Charles on each charge 12 months ago, finding him guilty of murder, weapons offenses, six counts of attempted murder and seven counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.

The incident occurred April 24, 2016, when Charles was 17 years old. He armed himself with a handgun and fired numerous shots at a minivan that Ciony and six other juveniles were occupying in the area of Jersey Street and Home Avenue in Trenton’s South Ward. One of those shots struck Ciony in the head; she died two days later from her injuries.

Police arrested Charles on April 29, 2016. He was eventually waived up to adult court and indicted on 16 counts, including one count of first-degree murder, six counts of first-degree attempted murder, seven counts of fourth-degree aggravated assault with a firearm, one count of second-degree possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes and one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun without a permit to carry.

After the jury convicted Charles on June 8, 2018, he blamed his defense attorney Bruce L. Throckmorton for the outcome.

“You have to take responsibility for your own action for your own case,” Pereksta told Charles. “I do not take any pleasure in days like this.”

A first-degree murder conviction carries 30 years to life in prison in New Jersey’s criminal justice system, but a judge must exercise restraint when sentencing a juvenile waived up to adult court. Charles was a 17-year-old juvenile when he shot and killed the teenage victim.

Ciony Kirkman was a student enrolled in Trenton’s Daylight Twilight alternative high school and was active in dance and cheerleading. She was an unintended target in an ongoing feud between warring factions from the city’s Wilbur section and Jersey Street, prosecutors previously said.

Ciony’s family wanted Charles to get life in prison. Throckmorton wanted his client to get sentenced to the least punitive punishment allowable under state law. Pereksta ultimately sentenced the convicted murderer to 55 years of incarceration subject to the No Early Release Act, which means the defendant must serve at least 85 percent of the term behind bars before he may become eligible for parole.

Charles has also been sentenced to 16-year concurrent prison terms for his attempted murder convictions. The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office was not seeking consecutive sentences in this case.

Charles has been awarded 1,148 days of jail credit for being in custody for more than three years since his arrest. He appeared in court Friday in an orange Mercer County Correction Center jumpsuit and said he understood the terms of his hefty prison sentence. He has the right to appeal his convictions and sentences within 45 days.

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