In the early morning hours of July 28, 2016 a fourteen year old Warren, Ohio girl named Bresha Meadows, shot and killed her father, Jonathan Meadows, as he lay sleeping on the living room couch in the family’s home.
The above sentence is the only undisputed fact in the fatal shooting. Over and over again, the question “What makes a fourteen year old girl shoot her father in his head as he sleeps?” is the only crucial point, and the answers are nebulous. Varying stories from Bresha’s acts of defiance in running away from home to Brandi Meadows’ claim that her husband abused and terrorized the family to Jonathan Meadows’ family claim that the household had no problems or violence run the gamut of opinion while also possibly touching on fact. Regardless, the picture that gets painted from both sides is one that has young Bresha Meadows in turmoil.
Brandi and Jonathan Meadows were married for over twenty years. They had five children ranging from 22 to 14. Bresha was the baby of the family. A bright girl, she attended a gifted program at her school, got good grades, and was set to enter Warren G. Harding High School in the fall as a freshman. Most photos show her smiling. She bears no outward signs of abuse.
Domestic violence cases are tough. It’s difficult to get victims to admit they’ve been abused. It’s even more difficult to get them to maintain charges against their abusers. Part of this lies in the nature of abuse. It’s a cycle of damage and repair, a fist in the face one day and a caress the next with the promise of a better tomorrow ahead. It’s also a game of psychological torture. Many victims of abuse are told by their abusers that fleeing is a death sentence, and as we see all too often, staying is a death sentence too. Finally, the system set up to help victims and their families is lacking the support it truly needs to provide in order to stop the violence. An order of protection is just a piece of paper. It’s a legal shield, but it can’t stop a bullet, a knife, or a fist.
Brandi Meadows endured. The abuse and violence was normalized in the household. She bore the brunt of the physical trauma, being hit in the face so hard her teeth cracked and later fell out or having bones broken, but the whole family was affected by the emotional abuse. Every little thing had to be perfect in Jonathan Meadows’ day for the family to avoid his wrath. If Brandi even parked the car “wrong” or went to the bathroom without his permission, he would react violently.
Why did Brandi Meadows stay, one might ask? It’s a fair question and one that her own sister, Martina Latessa, a Cleveland detective in the domestic violence squad, answers readily in an August 31 interview with Democracy Now!, “I found out about it in 2011, so around five years ago. She did go back, and that is normal for victims of domestic violence, to go back. You know, she loved him, and she wanted her family to be together. And she’s told me in conversations he has told her, “I’m not going to hit you anymore. We’re going to be better.” And she went back. And, you know, like, that’s normal for domestic violence victims to do and experience. And it’s hard for people who don’t understand domestic violence, who don’t live in it, who’s never grown up in it, that that is where she’s going to—she’s going to do that. And I’d explain that even to my own mom and my family, that, you know, it’s normal. Even though it’s hard for us to understand, it is normal in domestic violence.”
Latessa added that because Jonathan Meadows didn’t like her personally and didn’t like police in general, she believed that if she interfered in her sister’s family, Mr. Meadows would kill her sister and her nieces and nephews. She tells of the phone calls she made to local police, asking for help but knowing that without Brandi Meadows’ cooperation, there was nothing anyone could do to help her.
Jonathan Meadows’ family tells a different story. They say he had a different way of handling things and he drank but that he loved his family. His sister, Lena Cooper, has been the most outspoken, saying his death was “cold and calculated.” Neighbors of the family claim they never saw anything out of the ordinary, but that’s also common in domestic violence situations. The public face of the family is smiling and happy, denying the horrors behind closed doors.
Meanwhile, Brandi Meadows has called her daughter the family’s “savior”. Bresha Meadows remains in the Trumbull County Juvenile Detention Center in Warren, Ohio. She is charged with aggravated murder in the death of her 41 year old father, Jonathan Meadows. A hearing to ask for her release before trial was supposed to happen this week, but it was delayed until January 20, 2017. At which point, Bresha Meadows will have spent half of her freshman year of high school in jail.
Further updates and ways to help Bresha Meadows can be found on the Free Bresha website: https://freebresha.wordpress.com/
(Article by Lessa Leigh, originally published on November 28, 2016 on The Rust Belt Tribune)