Police say Bresha Meadows’s father was asleep in the living room when she aimed his .45-caliber, semiautomatic handgun at him and pulled the trigger.
Now the 15-year-old is in juvenile detention, charged with delinquency by reason of aggravated murder in the July 28 slaying of 41-year-old Jonathan Meadows, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
If prosecuted as an adult and convicted, Meadows would become the youngest inmate in the Ohio prison system, the paper reported. Bresha Meadows turned 15 on Thursday, her mother told the Plain Dealer.
To her father’s relatives, the Warren, Ohio, teenager is a coldblooded killer who deserves to be tried as an adult.
On her mother’s side, the teenager is thought of entirely differently.
“She is my hero,” Brandi Meadows, Bresha’s mother told Fox 8 Cleveland. “She helped me; she helped all of us so we could have a better life.”
She told the station that the life her family wanted was one free from the terror of physical and emotional abuse exacted upon them by her husband.
Meadows told the Plain Dealer that her daughter was in a gifted program in middle school and was about to start her freshman year in high school. But abuse was taking its toll, with the teenager’s grades dropping and a sense of desperation increasing.
“I watched my child deteriorate,” Meadows said. “She went from being okay to nothing. He terrorized us. ”
The abuse had been going on for years, she said, prompting her to file a protective order that was eventually dismissed. The torment had become so bad, she said, that she was afraid to leave.
Meadows told the Plain Dealer that she estimates that she had gone to a hospital or an outpatient facility because of the abuse 15 to 20 times. She told the paper that holes in the wall around the family home are evidence of her husband’s attacks. Sometimes he’d used his fists, she said, and other times, he’d use her head.
He was never far away from her, monitoring her behavior, ready to pounce, she said.
“You name it, he did it,” Meadows told the paper. “Mentally, physically, emotionally.”
Lena Cooper, Jonathan Meadows’s sister, told the Plain Dealer that her brother was a good father who loved his family. She said her brother had been abusive at one time, but it was years ago.
“This was not a family living in fear,” Cooper said. “My brother is being crucified for something that happened years ago. There is no evidence of recent abuse. We talked with the authorities, and they said there was no signs of abuse.”
“It was murder,” Cooper added. “But I don’t want my niece to get life in prison. I want her to get help. If it was that bad in that house, (Brandi) could have run. My nephew has a car. My brother wasn’t there 24 hours a day.”
In 2011, the Huffington Post reported, Meadows filed a civil domestic-violence protection order against her husband that detailed horrific violence and noted that she was certain her life was at risk.
“In the 17 years of our marriage, he has cut me, broke my ribs, fingers, the blood vessels in my hand, my mouth, blackened my eyes. I believe my nose was broken,” she wrote. “If he finds us, I am 100 percent sure he will kill me and the children … My life is like living in a box he created for me, and if I stepped out of that box, he’s there to put me back in that box.”
Caught in the middle of the violence was Bresha Meadows and her two siblings, according to Martina Latessa, Meadows’s aunt, who is a Cleveland police officer in the domestic violence unit.
“From Day One, she was born into a nightmare,” Latessa told the Plain Dealer, noting that her niece had run away from home at one point and come to her for help.
“She was begging me for help,” Latessa said. “She was very, very scared for her mother and sisters.”
Ian Friedman, the teenager’s attorney, told Fox 8 that over years of abuse, Jonathan Meadows had used his gun numerous times to threaten the family.
“Using that gun around the house to intimidate; everyone in the home was terrified,” Friedman said.
Friedman told the Plain Dealer that when Bresha Meadows turned the gun back on her father, it was a last resort.
“It was the only way that she could defend her family from the man who abused them,” he said. “He was well over 200 pounds, and she was a 14-year-old girl.”
Brandi Meadows agreed, telling the paper that her daughter was trying to end the abuse when she picked up her father’s weapon.
“I believe she was trying to help our whole family get out of the box that he put us in,” she said. “I believe that she saved all of us.”
Friedman told the Huffington Post that he is compiling records from hospitals and government agencies that will outline the pattern of abuse experienced by family members during the couple’s 22-year marriage.
“I trust that once they see that, they will fully understand why this girl acted the way that she did,” he said.
Bresha Meadows is scheduled to return to court at the end of August.
Family members have started a GoFundMe page to raise money for her defense. The page has raised more than $29,000 in less than two weeks.