Caitlyn Meraz spent her 16th birthday going to the funeral of a close family friend. Afterward, she got home, plopped on her bed and planned to grieve alone.
Then Brittnee MaeLin Wicker and another girl stormed into her home.
Wicker brought a card, balloon and gummy bears.
“She said ‘come on get in the car, we’re kidnapping you,” said Meraz, now 23. “Every birthday Brit would not just let you have a quiet birthday” because she felt “you deserved to be celebrated.”
They went and got ice cream and drove around listening to music and singing.
It’s one of the many memories Meraz has of her best friend, a former Wichita North High School choir singer and cheerleading captain who went on to cheer at Newman University.
The 24-year-old’s mother found her fatally shot on Nov. 12 at her south Wichita duplex. Wicker’s ex-boyfriend, Carlos Anderson-Honeycutt, was arrested two days later in Texas.
He has been charged with first-degree murder. The 26-year-old remained jailed in Texas on Saturday, but will be extradited to Wichita.
Friends, family and coworkers remembered Brittnee Wicker as a goofy, loving and energetic girly girl who loved to sing and dance.
“Glitz, glam, glitter, nails done, hair done, beautiful,” her mother Connie Wicker said. “She was beautiful inside and out” and liked “anything pink and glittery, shiny.”
Friend Brooklyn Myers said Brittnee Wicker had glittery boots that she liked to wear when they went line dancing at Rodeo. They recently went there to celebrate Wicker’s Nov. 1 birthday.
“She had no athletic bone in her body but the girl could dance,” Myers said. “She just brought the energy. … She is just love bottled up in a human.”
Friend and coworker Hayley Burns added: “She danced like no one else was in the room. I’ll miss our conversations every day in her office and her making me smile or laugh when I didn’t think I could.”
Brittnee Wicker found a job she excelled at working with adults with intellectual disabilities at Starkey.
“She had such a bright future here,” said Grecia Nebel, who supervised Wicker. “She very quickly became one of my go-to staff when she got here.”
She was recently promoted to a position where she helped organize daily activities for people the nonprofit serves. In that position, she launched a successful drive that brought in hundreds of items for homeless people, which adults in the Starkey program helped organize and deliver.
Wicker had a long history of helping the homeless.
For the last several years, she would go and buy a cart full of blankets as it got cold outside and hand them out, family and friends said.
“The world is a much darker place. She was a beacon,” Connie Wicker said. “It’s just very sad that she was taken away, not just from me, but the world. Because I think she would have done a lot of great things.”
From shy girl to founder of the ‘Four Musketeers’
Brittnee Wicker was the youngest of three. There was an 11-year gap between her and her sister and an eight-year gap between her and her brother.
“Kind of a whoopsy but a huge blessing,” Connie Wicker said.
Connie Wicker said her daughter was looking forward to becoming an aunt in just a few weeks.
She remembers her daughter as a quiet girl who went from obsessing over Hannah Montana to Justin Bieber. She was nervous to ever get up and do a presentation in front of her classmates.
But cheerleading changed that.
“I think cheer took that away,” Wicker said. “She kind of blossomed.”
Brittnee Wicker went on to be a confident, smiley teen who would fly through the air as a cheer captain at North High.
“If there was a joke to be made, she made it,” Meraz said about Brittnee Wicker, remembering their cheerleading days. “She didn’t want anybody to be upset. … We’d be sitting there crying, and she made a joke she probably shouldn’t have made, just to see a smile. That’s just who she was to her core. She was such a sweet person.”
Then came the group Connie Wicker called the Four Musketeers.
Wicker and Meraz were already best friends.
One day, they were sitting in the car in the North High parking lot eating french fries when Whitney Mayberry walked up, stole some fries, chatted and then walked off. Wicker turned to Meraz and told her that Mayberry was going to start hanging out with them.
Within a week, the three became inseparable.
Wicker also brought in Tyla PrudHomme-Delodder, the little sister of someone she dated at the time. She got her to try out for the cheer team.
Cheerleading also brought PrudHomme-Delodder out of her shell.
“Her personality clicked, she just needed someone to pull her in and show her … you can be yourself around us,” Meraz said.
The Four Musketeers were firmly established. They would often drive around and talk or just blare music.
“It was always a dance party,” Meraz said. “No matter the song, we had to dance or sing. Windows down, singing.”
They all graduated from North High in 2018.
Brittnee Wicker wanted to cheer at Wichita State University. But she got an academic and cheer scholarship that covered most of her education at Newman University.
”It was like God wanted her at Newman,” Connie Wicker said.
PrudHomme-Delodder also went to Newman, where she cheered alongside Brittnee Wicker.
Allie Johnson remembers being nervous coming into her first practice with the combined cheer and dance teams. She was a freshman; Brittnee Wicker a senior.
“She was always full of laughter and smiles the first day she walked through the door,” she said. “Not a lot of people are like that at 6 a.m.”
Wicker was “just always a positive role model to anybody. … She could tell if someone was having a bad day and she would check on them.”
Even though they went to different places for college, the Four Musketeers stayed close.
Meraz, who went to Emporia State University, said she would come back on weekends and they would hang out.
After college, Meraz took a job teaching in Florida, but they all still stayed close. Wicker would often text to see how the volleyball team Meraz coaches was doing.
Wicker felt in limbo about what to do with her life after getting a degree in criminal justice in 2022. She didn’t know what to do with it. But she found her calling at Starkey, Meraz said.
Wicker had been working there for around 1.5 years and was promoted to a position that the nonprofit created this summer.
“She was a natural,” Kary Wade, the supervisor over the program that Wicker coordinated, said.
“It was like this is what she was supposed to do. She thrived. She thrived here. She took on her new role with confidence. It’s like she was meant for this position. And when we developed that position, no one could have fit that position like Brittnee.”
Meraz arrived back in Wichita from Florida on Saturday. She had already had the trip planned to see her best friend. But now it will be spent remembering her with others who loved Wicker.
The Four Musketeers, along with Myers, who met Wicker when they worked at a restaurant together while she was still in high school, planned to be bridesmaids in their future weddings.
“It feels weird to say that she won’t be at my wedding,” Meraz said, “or she won’t be at those future life events because she was taken from us so soon.”
Wicker and Anderson-Honeycutt had an on-and-off relationship. They had been living together at a home in south Wichita, but had broken up earlier this month.
Family and friends said it was for good this time.
Anderson-Honeycutt had his stuff packed but showed up at the house on Nov. 11, Connie Wicker said.
Brittnee Wicker let him inside to stay the night.
Wicker said if he didn’t leave the next day that she would go stay with her mother or someone else and have him evicted, Connie Wicker said her daughter told her.
Brittnee Wicker texted her mother that he was sleeping on the couch. The last thing she texted her was that she loved her, Connie Wicker said.
They had plans the next day to go to Kobe Steak House of Japan for both of their birthdays, but Brittnee Wicker didn’t answer her phone. Connie Wicker texted that she needed to call her right now, but she didn’t.
Sunday night she went to the duplex in the 2300 block of South Belmont, which is near George Washington Boulevard and Pawnee. She had a key.
She found her daughter face down on her bed, like she had fallen onto it. She had been shot in the head.
Connie Wicker, a nurse, checked her daughter’s pulse. But she knew.
“I grabbed her hand and I said I am sorry baby girl.”
She called the police and alleged that it was Anderson-Honeycutt. She said his truck was out front, broke down. Boxes of his stuff were packed inside.
Brittnee Wicker’s car, bank card and credit cards were gone. Connie Wicker said he withdrew $200 from her account. She said police told her he fled to Mexico then came back into the U.S. before being arrested in Texas.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help with funeral costs. It can be found at shorturl.at/jotG8.
She is survived by her mother, father Johnnie Wicker, sister Crystal Anderson and brother Johnnie Wicker.
“We are asking for people to wear pink or bright colors in true Brittnee fashion,” Meraz wrote online.
Connie Wicker said: “She wouldn’t want everyone in black clothes.”