By Ed Runyan
At the first pretrial hearing Tuesday for Bresha Meadows, her defense attorney and a community organization focused on domestic violence.
She is charged with aggravated murder in the July 28 shooting death of her father at their Hunter Street Northwest home.
One member of Bresha’s family told reporters the day of the killing that the death was the result of “20 years of abuse” by her father, Jonathan Meadows Sr., 41, against members of his family.
Bresha, 15, is being detained in the Trumbull County Juvenile Justice Center. Her next hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 6.
Atty. Ian Friedman of Cleveland, who represents Bresha, told reporters after the hearing he has been surprised since starting on the case at how “widespread” the problem of domestic violence is. He’s been a defense attorney for 20 years, he noted.
“We’re also seeing, believe it or not – a number of folks have reached out to me since this case began who have shared their personal stories ... where they as children had to act in a similar fashion [as Bresha] to protect themselves or their parents or loved one,” he said.
“So is this a common situation? No, but it’s not quite as rare as I would have thought.”
It is the second time in two years that a Trumbull County child 14 or 15 years old has been charged with murder. Jacob Larosa of Niles, now 15, was ordered to stand trial as an adult in the March 31, 2015, killing of an elderly neighbor. His case is pending.
Friedman said he has no concern that Larosa’s case has set a precedent, causing Bresha’s case to be bound over to the adult court also.
“This is a very unique case as far as the facts but more so the person,” Friedman said. “Bresha is very different from any other person, so I am not concerned that any other case was bound over.”
Stanley Elkins, assistant county prosecutor, said prosecutors have not decided yet whether to ask for Bresha to be tried as an adult.
Friedman said Tuesday’s pretrial hearing in Family/Juvenile Court Judge Pamela Rintala’s chambers consisted of an exchange of evidence and a discussion about evidence.
When asked about allegations of abuse, Friedman said such information will be presented to prosecutors and police in the coming weeks.
Friedman hinted there may not be a lot of documented evidence of abuse in the Meadows’ home.
“They are scared of the repercussions,” he said of victims. “There are a number of reasons it goes unreported, but in this case, it will still be introduced. Maybe it won’t be done through police reports, but it will come in through the family members and those who were involved to say, ‘This is the real story.’”
When a reporter mentioned public support the girl is getting on social media, a petition campaign and elsewhere, Friedman said, “She’s a young girl ... just turned 15 and sitting in a jail cell not knowing what her future holds, so for her to see names of people who are supporting her who are thinking about her and praying for her, that helps. I mean she needs that support to get through the next day.”
Marcia Dinkins, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, a community action organization, attended the hearing with several other MVOC members. She said the organization collected more than 7,000 signatures seeking an immediate release of Bresha and for the murder charge to be dropped.
The petition drive was not a comment on Bresha’s guilt or innocence but a request for policymakers at the local, state and national level to provide more help for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.
“We’re pushing for just laws, for all individuals who fall in a similar plight as Bresha Meadows,” Dinkins said.
Elkins refused to accept the petitions, and she was advised to give them to Friedman instead, Dinkins said.
Capt. Rob Massucci of the Warren Police Detective Bureau said he would agree with Friedman’s comment that there is more domestic violence in Warren than people might think, but also there are more organizations, such as the domestic-violence shelter Someplace Safe, today than 10 to 15 years ago to help people with issues such as domestic violence.
About 3 a.m. July 28, Bresha’s mother, Brandi Meadows, called 911 and reported that Bresha had shot her father in the head. He was dead at the scene.
When Brandi Meadows was asked Tuesday whether she wanted Bresha to come home, she said, “Oh yes, I want her to come home. I need her to come home. She’s a part of my family.”