CATAWBA CO., NC (WJZY) - A Catawba man accused of a 2012 murder and subsequent burning of the victim’s body pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a prison term of at least 20 years Monday.
Jermaine Wilkes, 36, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, concealing/failing to report a death and burning personal property on the day that his murder trial was to begin for the June 7, 2012, slaying of 22-year-old Brianne Mary Ginty.
Wilkes has been sentenced to serve 20 to 26 years in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections following his guilty plea for Ginty’s death.
“This murder was a senseless act of uncalled for violence … because of the hatred, ill will or spite of this defendant, Bri(anne Ginty) will never experience her dreams,” Assistant District Attorney Lance Sigmon said, in a written statement, released on Monday.
Ginty’s parents, Patrick and Susan, both addressed the court. In a statement read by Sigmon, Patrick Ginty acknowledged the loss of a “daughter and friend” while asking the Court to give Wilkes the maximum sentence possible to bring closure to the family.
Susan Ginty told the Court that her daughter “had a purpose in life, and just like that she was gone. Her spirit will live on in the hearts of the people she touched.”
Wilkes, who has been incarcerated in the Catawba County Detention Center since his arrest in June 2012, also read a statement prior to sentencing. He said, “On the day in question, a lot of mistakes were made … I want you all to know I’m truly sorry for my actions … I wish I had handled things differently.”
Firefighters from Sherrills Ford Fire and Rescue responded to a vehicle fire on Hopewell Church Road in Catawba on June 7, 2012, and found a vehicle registered to Ginty severely burned and still smoldering. They also discovered skeletal remains inside the vehicle. The body was burned beyond recognition, and it took DNA samples from those remains and Ginty’s parents to confirm the identity.
When they responded to Ginty’s residence, located more than seven miles from the site her burned car and remains were found, investigators discovered forced entry had been made into the home through a window.
The officers noted that their investigation led to discovery that Ginty’s boyfriend, Antoine Reid, had broken into her home while Wilkes was with him. Reid later left the house, but Wilkes remained at the residence with Ginty. It was after Reid left that an altercation occurred between Ginty and Wilkes that led to her death.
Blood, later identified as Ginty’s, was found on the floor of the living room. After developing Wilkes as a possible suspect, officers with the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office located him walking along a road and took him into custody.
Initially, Wilkes denied any wrongdoing but later admitted that he had moved Ginty’s body to the wooded area and burned it after she allegedly fell and hit her head when he struck her once, an act of panic that Defense Attorney Scott Reilly said led to a series of horrible decisions by his client.
“Had he done what was right, we probably wouldn’t be here,” Reilly said, in a written statement, released on Monday.