Many true crime fans know Paul Berkley as a devoted father and brave soldier who was gunned down in cold blood by his much younger wife Monique Berkley and her two accomplices.
However true those two things about Paul may have been, there was a lot more to him than that. I knew Paul and spent plenty of time with him, and those are not the two words that would come to mind first if I were asked to describe him.
The Paul I Knew
If there was a “most likely to be murdered for money by a woman” category in the yearbook hall of fame, Paul would have won it. The only thing that surprised me about this case was the fact that Monique was not a stripper.
Paul was a pathological liar I knew from the strip clubs I used to dance and bartend in. He once drove me to an 18th birthday party where the birthday boy’s parents hired me to dance topless.
Aside from being a pathological liar, Paul’s main defining characteristic was the fact that he was never happy unless his life was being made a living hell by a stripper.
Paul surrounded himself with women who undressed for money in any capacity that they’d allow. Some of the many “services” Paul provided for exotic dancers included:
- Acting as their chauffeur and personal security team
- Lavishing them with gifts
- Tipping them in bikini bars
- Lavishing them with drugs (I never saw Paul do them or drink)
- Proposing to them
- Offering to be a father to their fatherless children
Paul had a few different fiancées during the years that I knew him, but no marriages. Every single one of them was a stripper with a kid.
Fun fact: The strip club I worked in when Paul and I used to hang out more than a quarter-century ago hasn’t updated its website since then.
My Favorite Paul Story
When Paul found out I had graduated from medical assisting school, he must have been thrilled. After all, he’d finally found a way to make his workdays revolve around a stripper as well as all of his off-hours. He said he was willing to do whatever it took to get my platform shoe in the sliding hospital doors.
The reason I never secured work as a medical assistant was because I had no experience. I had finished my medical assisting courses with good grades, but I was not bright enough to have thought to check the want ads ahead of time to see if anyone was willing to hire someone fresh out of school with no experience. They weren’t.
Having no experience seemed to me to be an obvious obstacle when applying to work at the admitting desk in a busy ER. Paul assured me I could fake some credentials and he’d pull a few strings and make it happen.
“But isn’t it important that I know what I’m doing and that I’m not just pretending since it’s the ER and all?” I asked.
People tend to be in the emergency room because they were dying, or they believed themselves to be in immediate danger of dying. It wasn’t the same thing as pretending to be a redhead while you’re doing phone sex.
No one was going to be unable to reattach their severed limb, or left gasping for oxygen while in the toxic grasp of anaphylactic shock if it was suddenly revealed in a moment of life or death crisis that I was really a brunette.
Paul told me not to worry because it was not in the least bit important. In his opinion, taking my clothes off for money and a basic comprehension of medical insurance billing codes were all the qualifications I needed.
I was certain the bleeding people whose lives were potentially in my hands would disagree, so I politely declined Paul’s offer to lie on my behalf. If a patient dropped dead because someone had failed to note their medication allergy on their chart, their blood was not going to be on my hands.
Eventually, I stopped working in the clubs, and Paul and I drifted apart. He found his dream woman, and surprisingly, she was not a stripper. Instead, she was a trainwreck who had all of the inherent problems dating a stripper entails without the looks or the tip money.
Paul Finds “The One”
So where did Paul find this charming young lady? Monique Wheeler moved out to California from her native Florida to have a commitment ceremony with a woman she barely knew.
When they met Paul, they were living in a fleabag motel in a seedy neighborhood near the strip club he and I met in. Monique was 20 years old, and she’d been with her lesbian lover for six months. Paul was 40 at the time, and he’d been divorced twice.
After wooing Monique away from her “wife,” Paul married her in Las Vegas. By all accounts, life afterward was good, at least for a little while.
Four years after they were married, Paul and Monique moved to North Carolina. Paul was in the Naval Reserves, and when duty called, he was shipped off to serve overseas. He served in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iraq, leaving young and wild Monique to hold down the fort back home.
Monique grew weary of being a stepmother and having her life revolve around regular stuff instead of non-stop drama, so she decided to start screwing one of her teenage step-son’s high school friends.
Eventually, Monique moved Andrew Canty, then 18, and his friend Lawton Johnson, also 18, into Paul’s house. Paul found out about the affair and planned to divorce her, and that’s when Monique got the brilliant idea to plan a murder with two teenagers so she could get her hands on Paul’s life insurance money.
Paul’s Final Night
When Paul returned from his deployment, Monique lured him into the park on a cold night with the promise of sex and a picnic. Paul, of course, went along with it like he did everything else involving partially nude women. You could have lured Paul into the Scientology Celebrity Centre with the promise of sex.
Paul didn’t end up having a picnic, and he didn’t get laid. Instead, he was shot and stabbed in the head by Canty and Johnson. They then shot Monique in the arm to make it look as though she’d been attacked.
Had Paul survived the hit, I can’t imagine he would have appreciated having fake stripper nurses attending to him in the intensive care unit. But then again, maybe he would have.
One other thing I remember about Paul is he did talk about his kids often. When I learned he had died, I didn’t remember his last name, and I was actually able to get information about the case because I remembered his son’s name and googled it.
I was married with kids at the time, and Paul never tried to hit on me. He was an okay guy. Just…odd with a dash of a savior complex.
If you aren’t familiar with the Monique Berkley case and you want more details, here’s a link to the episode of Oxygen’s Snapped it was featured on. (I’ll warn you ahead of time, it’s not free. It’s $1.99 to watch this episode.)