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Thursday, March 14, 2019 1:00 am

Wife killer gets 50-year sentence

27-year-old fatally shot mom as 2 young children slept

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Wiley Brown III wouldn't say why he killed his wife.

Ignoring tearful pleas from the family of Courtney Ertel-Brown, he sat quietly Wednesday between his lawyers in Allen Superior Court. He looked at the ceiling of the courtroom but rarely toward the six members of her family who needed an answer.

“Why, Wiley?” asked LaVon Ertel, the woman's grandmother.

Even after being told his children ask “why daddy shot mommy,” Brown was silent.

“I love my kids. That's all,” he responded when asked by a judge whether he had anything to say.

Brown, 27, then was sentenced to 50 years in the slaying of his wife, 24. He shot her to death during an early-morning argument Sept. 20 in their home in New Haven as two daughters, 2 and 5, slept nearby.

“Mommy will just be another picture on her wall,” said Courtney's stepmother, Karen Ertel, referring to one of the girls. “You did that.”

As the couple argued, Brown took a gun from a closet, put it to his head and thought about killing himself, he told police after he turned himself in last year. He fired one shot into the floor, and Courtney tried to wrest the gun from him.

Brown fired twice more, hitting his wife once in the head, according to a probable cause affidavit.

He pleaded guilty in February to murder, and Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull ordered him to spend 50 years of a 55-year sentence behind bars. He'll be on probation for five years after the sentence is completed.

Brown was also ordered to pay more than $16,000 in restitution to Shawna Gunder, Courtney's mother.

Gunder, the first to speak in court Wednesday, relayed feelings of hurt, anger, hatred, betrayal and disappointment.

“The list can go on and on,” she said.

Courtney worried about her husband, Gunder said.

“I told her to leave you and she said, 'Mom, he'll kill me,'” she said. “Those are the words that I'll never forget. She was the best mom and wife and you took all that and flushed it. You are responsible for the void in so many lives, and I hope you suffer that void like we all have.”

The courtroom was filled with people who remembered Courtney. Many wore pink or black shirts bearing her name and the words “Thank You Bye,” a phrase she used. 

“Losing my daughter, ... tears me up in ways you'll never understand,” said Todd Ertel, Courtney's father.

mleblanc@jg.net