Branden Petersen sent to prison for Michele Carkhuff murder

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Branden Petersen, Michelle Carkhuff

Branden Petersen (driver’s license photo via Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office), Michele Carkhuff (Facebook)

A felon once incarcerated for stabbing a neighbor as a teen is going back to prison for at least 51 years for stabbing a woman in the neck and killing her at an apartment on a palatial estate belonging to a former U.S. senator in New Jersey.

Brandon Petersen, a 33-year-old Sussex County resident from Newton, was sentenced Tuesday to a total of 60 years behind bars for the 2020 murder of 38-year-old Michele Carkhuff, a grandmother and mother of two daughters, at the Kingwood Stockton Rd. property owned by former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) in Stockton, Hunterdon County.

Petersen, who was convicted at trial on May 26 of first-degree murder, weapons charges and fourth-degree unlawful taking of a means of conveyance, must serve at least 85 percent of his 60-year sentence before he is eligible for parole — meaning he’ll have to live until the age of 84 before he’s outside prison walls again.

Branden Petersen

Branden Petersen (NJ Department of Corrections)

The defendant is no stranger to prison. As a 15-year-old, Petersen stabbed a New Jersey neighbor in her driveway for her purse money so he could pay a drug dealer what he owed. The robbery, aggravated assault, and terroristic threats case dating back to 2005 led to Petersen’s prosecution as an adult and incarceration in state prison until April 2019, My Central Jersey reported.

Just over a year after his release, on the night of Dec. 6, 2020, Petersen fatally stabbed Michele Carkhuff in a rage.

One of two witnesses to the slaying reportedly told authorities that she was at her apartment with the defendant and the victim when a drug-fueled Petersen suddenly stabbed Carkhuff in the neck with a kitchen knife as the two cut vegetables for stew.

Carkhuff died at a hospital in Mercer County, prosecutors said.

After the stabbing, Petersen crossed state lines into Pennsylvania in an effort to evade capture, but those efforts failed the next day when the then-suspect’s girlfriend told police he was in Upper Black Eddy, where he was arrested.

In a statement, Hunterdon County Prosecutor Renée Robeson called Carkhuff’s murder “unspeakably tragic and senseless.”

“Her family consistently attended every day of the trial and shared with the Court the depth of the loss they suffered,” Robeson added, crediting the victim’s loved ones for their “courage and strength through the journey of the criminal prosecution.”

Carkhuff’s devastated daughter Amanda previously told NJ.com that she had never heard of Petersen before the stabbing, which tragically unfolded weeks before Christmas in 2020.

“Nobody deserves what happened to my mom, especially this close to Christmas,” she reportedly said. “Me and my daughter meant the world to her. So did all of her family and friends. So many people are hurting from this loss that should have never happened.”

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