Jashua Perz, who killed his ex-girlfriend Kaitlin Gerber on Sunday, was released from jail even though the victim had expressed fear to her family and police about the gunman.
Perz was recently in jail for beating Miss Gerber last year, and he was under a court-protection order not to contact her. But he violated that order while he was in jail by repeatedly sending letters to the victim.On Feb. 27, he pleaded guilty in Sylvania Municipal Court to violating the protection order, and Judge M. Scott Ramey released him on the same day.
Judge Ramey explains why. The judge said he let Perz out on his own recognizance based on a recommendation from the Sylvania prosecutor, which was signed by Ms. Gerber.
In retrospect, it appears those papers served as a death warrant.
A little more than three weeks later, Perz, 29, carried out the threat he made about six months earlier, to kill Miss Gerber and himself. Driving his blue sport utility vehicle, Perz on Sunday chased down the victim, 20, who was fleeing in her own car to a South Toledo fitness center, and shot her four times in the back inside her car, according to the Lucas County Coroner's Office and Toledo police.
Later in the day, with police outside his Maumee home, Perz fatally shot himself in the head.
The case has left friends, relatives, and other admirers mourning the loss of Miss Gerber and domestic violence victims' advocates wishing cases such as hers came under more scrutiny.
Judge Ramey said the case did not lead him to believe Perz would be a threat.
"There was no indication that that was a concern given the information the court had," Judge Ramey said. "This is a tragedy of the greatest magnitude."
Sylvania Municipal Court records show that Perz had agreed to plead guilty to one count of violating a protection order while three other counts would be dismissed. The agreement called for him to continue to have no contact with Miss Gerber. Judge Ramey called for a presentence investigation and set sentencing for May 2.
"Nobody was objecting or asking that he not be released," Judge Ramey said. He said that Miss Gerber was represented in court by the court's victim advocate. He said he could have refused to accept the recognizance bond but said that refusing the release provision might have invalidated the rest of the agreement.
"When I admonished him about not having contact with her, I did not get any response from him of any kind," Judge Ramey said, saying that stuck in his mind even though it was customary for a response to that kind of admonishment to come from the attorney, rather than the defendant.
He said Perz's attorney, Peter Rost, commented that Perz's letters and phone calls were not violent.
Perz, who was convicted in Lucas County Common Pleas Court of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor in 2008, was jailed last year after Miss Gerber told police that on Sept. 7 he held her for four hours at 1146 Country Creek Lane, near Southwyck Boulevard, where they were living together, struck her in the lip and repeatedly in the abdomen, threatened her with a meat tenderizer, and told her, "Tell me the truth or I'll bust out all of your teeth," according to the report she filed with Toledo police.
The attack left injuries that could be seen by her co-workers at Lexus of Toledo in Sylvania Township, General Manager Hal Whitmire said.
"She had bruises all over," Mr. Whitmire said. "He beat the pulp out of her." He said that among her co-workers, "there was a lot of anger."
Perz was found guilty of charges under two judges in Toledo Municipal Court, receiving 60 days at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio from Judge Amy Berling and 180 days from Judge William Connelly, Jr., to be served concurrently.
According to Jim Dennis, executive director of CCNO, which is near Stryker, Perz served 153 days behind bars, either at the Lucas County jail or at CCNO, and was given 27 days "early credit" -- time off his sentence for participating in programs and working.
On Feb. 4, Miss Gerber filed a complaint with Sylvania Township police that Perz violated the no-contact order by mailing four letters to her and calling her at her job in December and January, while he was still at CCNO.
"The victim reported that letters and messages have always been written or left as love letters," the police report stated. It also said that on Jan. 13, the victim sent a letter to Perz "expressing her displeasure and what she felt about his expressions and questions."
The report said that Perz stopped sending letters and left his last phone message on Jan. 15.
The report said that Miss Gerber was working with the Toledo police and the prosecutor's office where she was advised to file the report with Sylvania Township police. Also, CCNO was made aware of the violations and asked to monitor Perz's phone calls.
Perz was transferred from CCNO on Feb. 6 to the Lucas County jail, where he stayed until his release on Feb. 27.
"It's just a huge, huge tragedy, and we must do better," said Lynn Jacquot, director of the battered women's shelter at the YWCA of Northwest Ohio.
Assessment tools can help authorities identify behavior patterns to single out cases in which homicides may be more likely, Ms. Jacquot said.
Prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officers, advocates, medical providers, the Department of Job and Family Services, and "as many people who have contact with survivors as possible" should be involved when making decisions regarding an abuser, such as bond or a sentence, she said.
Tools such as protection orders must be enforced and violations taken seriously, she said.
"The community needs to demand better. This is a community issue. We know that there are some things that work," Ms. Jacquot said.
Instead of placing the full obligation on the victim to reach out, others need to take action too. Friends of abusers, for example, need to call out bad behavior such as stalking, she said.
Kathy Griffin, the executive director of Bethany House shelter for domestic-violence victims and their children, urged victims to work with professionals to develop a plan for leaving dangerous relationships.
"I think we need to listen to victims. We need to let them know it's not their fault. We need to make the public aware that there are places they can go. They don't have to try and stay out there," she said.
Several who knew Miss Gerber said she feared for her safety.
The Rev. Scott Weaver said she helped out at a local church's children's ministry, and when he founded Whispering Winds Church in Maumee she started attending there and sang with the praise team. But in the last month and a half he noticed the once-regular church-goer was no longer attending.
"She had to stop coming because she was being threatened by [Perz] and was afraid that she would be putting the church in danger," he said. "She was fully aware of the danger, and that's what makes the whole thing unbelievably sad. She contacted police, she followed through with police."
Jim Shull, owner of Jim Shull's Rib Cage restaurant in Maumee where Miss Gerber also worked, said the young woman was "totally different" and "more at ease" when Perz was locked up. He described Perz as a "smooth talker" with a jealous streak. "More than once she made a comment that he was going to kill her," Mr. Shull said.
"It's a very sad day here," Mr. Whitmire said. "Everybody really loved Kaitlin. She was a great person, a great worker." He said she was dealing with the domestic violence turmoil by participating in church and by developing a workout regimen with a friend at the fitness center near where she was killed.
By Tom Troy and Vanessa McCray - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
©2013 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)
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