by Melissa Jeltsen at the Huffington Post. Excerpt below:
There are things that Bresha Meadows remembers about the night she killed her father and things she doesn’t. She tells me this as she slowly picks apart a chocolate chip cookie, discarding the stale edges. We’re sitting at her attorney’s dining room table in an east side suburb of Cleveland. Although Bresha is 18, she looks younger, with warm brown eyes and a slightly upturned nose, which her boyfriend playfully teased her about the first time they met. She lifts her chin when she laughs, and she laughs often. The more distressing the story she’s telling, the more she breaks into a smile. It’s a nervous habit.
Her guess, she says, is that her mind blocked out some stuff to protect her. She remembers steadily extracting the gun from under her dad’s pillow as he slept on the couch. Then putting it down. Picking it up. Putting it down. “You know when you can kinda like, foresee something?” she asked. “I sat there thinking and pictures kept flashing in my head, like my mom’s funeral casket, and then my sister and brother are old enough to move out, and it is just me and him left in the house.” Her dad had been sexually abusing her since she was 8, she said, and beating her mother for her entire life. The last thing she thought before she pulled the trigger was: It’s never gonna stop. It’s only gonna get worse. She clicked the gun and spun around like a wooden spinning top.
She was 14.
She doesn’t remember screaming, though her mother describes hearing an unearthly sound, high-pitched and deafeningly loud. When the police arrived to arrest her, she was dripping wet. After shooting her father, she bolted upstairs and jumped in the shower fully clothed. “I felt myself going into shock, so I tried to get cold water on me,” she explained. The police officers who responded, all men, allowed her to put on dry clothes before taking her down to the station, but insisted on remaining in the room as she undressed, she said.
I’d been covering Bresha’s case since 2016, but this was the first time we’d met. In court, her back was always to the public gallery. From behind, she struck a fragile figure, often visibly shaking and shifting foot to foot as she stood in front of the judge, her hands clasped behind her. In person, she was lighter, more animated, although she chose her words with a degree of caution and precision rarely observed in teens. That’s a repercussion of jail, she said. She is always bracing for something terrible to happen.
The fact that we were even having this conversation was improbable. Normally kids who kill a parent are tried as adults and go to prison for decades, even if they are victims of severe child abuse. Bresha was an outlier. Eighteen months after the shooting, she returned home to her family in Warren, Ohio. This spring, she graduated high school with a 4.0 for the year.
During one of our conversations, I asked her what she wanted from her new life. She paused and a look of confusion flashed across her face. It was the wrong question, impossible for her to answer. Her childhood was focused on survival; it left no space to dream. Recently, she purchased an old Jeep. It had a cracked windshield and an oil leak, but it ran. When she is driving, she said, she is able to capture the rare and blissful feeling of having complete control over her life.
Before she pulled the trigger, Bresha said, it hadn’t actually occurred to her that she would go to jail. She thought it was obvious she was acting in self-defense, and everyone would agree. Nowhere is her 14-year-old mind more evident than in this calculation. It wasn’t until she was inside the Trumbull County Juvenile Detention Center, and heard her charge ― aggravated murder ― that it dawned on her that she was in serious trouble. If she was tried as an adult and convicted, she could spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Read the full article. Photo by Maddie McGarvey