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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 4/2/2013

Failure to communicate

The murder of Kaitlin Gerber by her ex-boyfriend continues to be treated with shrugs of resignation by local officials. Two disturbing revelations about this tragedy reflect the sad truth.

Area criminal-justice officials were unaware that Jashua Perz had been under a protective order in Michigan; he had threatened to kill his stepmother. That knowledge might have — should have — changed the view of Perz before he was released from jail without bail.

Registries of protective orders are available, regionally and nationally, to law enforcement officials. Why weren’t they checked? The answer the public has been given — a story about the wrong software in the wrong courtroom — is ridiculous and unacceptable.

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Equally outrageous is the revelation that Perz’s jailers did not know about his many letters to Miss Gerber — her family says there were 20 — along with phone calls from jail. Each one violated a court order that Perz not contact her.

How could this information not have been shared? Wouldn’t it have been an obvious precaution to check for other orders against Perz? Wouldn’t it be standard procedure, with a protective order in place, to see whether it is obeyed?

These were communication problems, granted. But they were more than that. There would have been better communication if all of the players in the system understood the gravity of the threat to Miss Gerber and acted accordingly.

There was no great impediment to better communication here. There is no obvious procedural change that would have reversed the poor communication.

The greater problem was an insufficient sense of urgency. The deeper problem was an insufficient sense of the threat Perz posed. The core problem was an insufficient commitment to keeping this young woman alive.

These two glitches, or misfires, in the system, are more than errors. They show egregious indifference, or incompetence, or both. Without them, Perz would probably still be behind bars and Miss Gerber would still be with us.

This is not a case of the system doing its best and evil triumphing anyway. From the start, the problem was the shrugging and resignation. No one had this young woman’s back. No one took the threat she faced as seriously as even a cursory examination of her case warranted.

And the shrugging continues. That is why Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine must launch a full-scale investigation of this tragedy.



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