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Man sentenced to 20 years for strangling his wife, hiding body

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

A Charlotte DJ was sentenced to at least 20 years in prison Thursday after authorities accused him of strangling his wife in 2011 and living in their home with her corpse for weeks.

Brandon Blakeney was sentenced to between 20 years and 25 years in prison. His wife, Catherine Blakeney, was 34 when she was found dead in an upstairs bedroom of the couple’s home in southwest Mecklenburg a few days after Christmas in 2011.

He entered an Alford Plea, in which a defendant maintains his innocence but concedes prosecutors have enough evidence for a conviction. For sentencing purposes, the plea is considered the same as a guilty plea.

After the killing, Blakeney lived in the house with his wife’s corpse for weeks – occasionally entertaining visitors – before police discovered the dead body in an upstairs bedroom. A prosecutor said Blakeney also used a debit card his wife had been issued to collect unemployment benefits.

In a letter read in court, Catherine Blakeney’s parents called him “a monster.”

“We couldn’t even see our beloved daughter at the end because she was dead for three weeks,” the letter said. “You even killed her dog. What did that dog ever do to you?”

Friends of Catherine Blakeney told the Observer after the sentencing that the Blakeneys’ relationship was rocky from the start. He was arrested in February 2010 for assaulting her. She’d show up at work with bruises.

At one point, Catherine Blakeney sent a text message to a neighbor, according to Assistant District Attorney Max Diaz. She was kicking her husband out of the house, the message said, and he had threatened to damage her property and kill her dogs.

“She was communicating with me about the beatings,” said Michael Edwards, 40, Catherine Blakeney’s ex-boyfriend. “She would tell me about the beatings. We were trying to get her out.”

Investigators believe Catherine Blakeney died sometime around Dec. 8 or Dec. 9, when she stopped answering text messages from family and friends.

Prosecutors said Brandon Blakeney, who DJ’d at Charlotte clubs, had at least two girlfriends. One came to the house on Dec. 10. “She said the defendant was acting strange,” Diaz said. “There was a strange odor coming from upstairs.”

On another occasion, other visitors noticed the odor, but Brandon Blakeney wouldn’t let them investigate or go upstairs, Diaz said.

Catherine Blakeney’s parents, who had never met Brandon Blakeney, became worried shortly after that, Diaz said, when they sent her a Christmas care package. It was unusual for her to not call to thank them.

They called police to check on her. Officers went to the house on Christmas Day, but no one answered. The next day, Brandon Blakeney opened the door when officers knocked, and said his wife was on vacation. On Dec. 27, officers knocked again, and asked if they could search the house.

During the search, officers noticed some things were amiss. Brandon Blakeney still contended his wife was on vacation, but her car was parked in the garage. And the responding officer noticed the strong smell of cleaning supplies, and 23 bottles of Pine Sol.

The officer noticed a strange smell coming from upstairs. Peering into a bedroom, he noticed a body on the floor with a sheet over it. A fan had been placed on the floor pointing toward an open window. Brandon Blakeney was arrested and interviewed at police headquarters. At first, Diaz said, Blakeney claimed he didn’t know his wife was dead. Later, he told investigators his marriage was “on the rocks” and he had found his wife hanging from the ceiling. He said he panicked, and didn’t call police.

Still later, he said his wife had died as the couple were “engaged in some sort of sex act,” Diaz said. “He had a belt around her neck, and also some type of cord was attached to her.”

In court Thursday, Blakeney sat stoically as the details of his wife’s death were recounted.

But Catherine Blakeney’s friends cried as they spoke of her.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Yvette Russell told the Observer after the sentencing. “Nothing can bring her back.”

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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