When Cheryl Beckett-Brown left work as an IT Specialist at Prince Street Elementary School last Wednesday, she left the upbeat song “Happy” playing on one of the teacher’s speakers.
That was the kind of cheerful, thoughtful woman the 55-year-old Salisbury native was.
By around 4 a.m. the next day, Thursday, Oct. 21, Beckett-Brown was dead, shot by a man police arrested, 38-year-old Jason Meredith of Hebron, thought to have been her boyfriend.
Meredith, Delaware State Police said, entered the mobile home where Beckett-Brown lived with a roommate, in the Bethany Crest mobile home community in Clarksville, west of Ocean View, and started firing. Police said Beckett-Brown was dead inside the mobile home by the time police arrived.
Meredith took off in a truck that neighbors described to State Police. A radio broadcast immediately went out and Meredith was soon arrested by a Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office deputy.
Later, police said Meredith would be extradited back to Delaware and charged with second-degree murder, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and first-degree reckless endangering.
Delaware State Police are continuing to investigate. In a news release they said Beckett-Brown and a female roommate were inside the residence when Meredith came to the community and began shooting into the residence, in the 35000 block of Bethany Crest. An assortment of shell casings were located at the scene and it hasn’t yet been determined what kind of gun was used, police said.
Beckett-Brown’s body was taken to the medical examiner’s officer for an autopsy.
News of her death hit Prince Street Elementary School Principal Jason Miller hard.
“I got a call from the superintendent’s office last Thursday afternoon telling me about her death and I was in total shock,” he said.
At work, Beckett-Brown mentioned her son, Anthony Brown, and daughter Roslyn Cornish, and said she had a boyfriend but never hinted that there were relationship problems or that she was at all concerned, Miller said.
“It’s one of those things you can’t wrap your head around. I couldn’t wrap my head around someone potentially in so much distress or potentially worried or scared. She never let it affect her professionalism,” he told the Salisbury Independent this week.
“When I was a classroom teacher I remember Cheryl being a school-based tech coming in to assist. We called her often at the Help Desk for the district and she would remote into your machine or work on trying to fix an issue remotely if she could. Then she became a school tech and we came back together. This is my sixth year as principal at Prince Street Elementary. She was assigned to be our school tech and I was able to work with her very closely over the last year and a half,” he said.
Jessica Grimes is the teacher for whom Beckett-Brown left the song “Happy” playing.
“She had been in to fix my sound. I had accidentally unplugged a cord when getting my charger. I took the kids to Specials and when I returned she had it fixed and the ‘Happy’ video playing so I would know the sound was coming through the ceiling again. So we danced and I apologized I had messed it up. We laughed at how confusing all the technology is now,” Grimes said.
Salisbury City Councilwoman April Jackson worked at Accurate Optical in Salisbury with Beckett-Brown in the 1980s and said she last saw her about three years ago.
“She was a sweetheart. Very soft spoken. Just never a problem out of her. Laid back. She was a kind soul,” Jackson said.
“Cheryl had a heart of gold,” her childhood friend Crystal Carnegie said.
“She was very quiet, very reserved, but very, very friendly. Once you got to know her there was no way you couldn’t be friends with her. She had a good demeanor,” said Carnegie, who graduated from Wicomico High School with Beckett-Brown in 1984.
“The last time I talked to her was maybe a year or so ago. A friend of hers died from covid and we were reminiscing. At that time she was living in Mardela. I don’t know when she moved to Delaware but I understand she went there for refuge. We were classmates, neighbors. We probably have known each other since when I moved to the area in fifth grade, around 1976,” Carnegie said.
Carnegie said she received a message from a former classmate last Thursday morning telling her about Beckett-Brown’s death.
“When I read it, it was gut-wrenching, especially about somebody who never bothered anybody and somebody breaks into their house like that. Cheryl wasn’t the type of person who was in your business or bothered you. She was a good person. She had a heart of gold,” she said.
Beckett-Brown’s daughter, Cornish, posting on Facebook, asked friends to “please light my Mommy a candle.”
She posted a photograph of herself with her mother and thanked those who sent condolences.
“This is going to be really hard for my family and myself,” Cornish wrote.
“My mother didn’t pass, she was murdered. Right now she would be at work about to start her weekend. Continue to pray for my family and peace that surpasses all understanding.”