As a pathologist put it to a police detective, Brittany Jeffers could have died while eating a bowl of cereal.
Instead, the 21-year-old mother of two collapsed during a street brawl — a flurry of screams, kicks and punches that involved up to eight people in a crowd of 50 onlookers.
Jeffers’ death was ruled a homicide. But neither police nor prosecutors nor grand jurors are fixing blame.
She did not die from a blow or kick or from hitting her head on the asphalt on March 27. An autopsy found no blunt-force trauma, no skull fracture, no bruising.
Jeffers died from a ruptured cerebral artery as a weakness in the artery wall — an aneurysm — blew out, causing bleeding that left her brain dead, ruled Franklin County Coroner Jan Gorniak.
“She voluntarily engaged in this fight, and as a result, her blood pressure elevated and this (artery) rupture occurred,” Circleville Police Chief Wayne Gray said last week. “She had this her entire life, and it finally let go. It kind of threw us off, too.
“There’s been a lot of rumor and speculation that she was kicked or punched in the head. There are different accounts. But there’s just no scientific evidence” of blunt-force trauma, he added.
Emily Harvey, Jeffers’ mother, has heard the story. She doesn’t buy it. She says her daughter was murdered and the suspects “got off scot-free.”
Jeffers “had been into other fights and nothing ever happened,” Harvey said. “I don’t believe that at all. ... She got kicked in the head.”
Harvey said the brawl began after she called police to report that a teenage boy who lives in the neighborhood was trying to break into a house across the street. The boy’s sister began yelling threats, and, following a confrontation, a fight broke out. Jeffers ran to assist her half sister, got caught up in the blows and then fell to the ground.
A woman, a man and two juveniles from one side of the argument were charged with rioting offenses as were Jeffers’ stepsister, uncle, half brother and half sister.
A grand jury declined to return involuntary-manslaughter indictments, and the prosecutor’s office did not file manslaughter-related charges against the juveniles. Most of the people charged were convicted of rioting offenses and served jail or detention-center sentences of 80 days or fewer.
Harvey is seeing a counselor and psychiatrist to deal with her daughter’s death. And she has been angered by what she says is retaliation.
Windows in her home have been broken three times in recent weeks, and a window in her daughter’s car also was broken. A white cross in memory of Brittany adorns her yard. “This all hurts so much,” she said.
Gray said Jeffers’ father — Willie Jeffers of London in Madison County — is caring for his two grandchildren and seems accepting of how his daughter died.
“It is tragic,” Gray said. “It’s not easy when you’re talking about the death of a child from any cause.”
By Randy Ludlow - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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