Kaitlin Gerber, the 20-year-old South Toledo woman who was fatally shot by a former boyfriend on Sunday, was the last in a long line of victims of an abusive Jashua Perz, court records show.
Just more than a year ago, Perz’s stepmother, Carol Perz of Lambertville, Mich., obtained a protective order in Monroe County Family Court after she said Perz threatened to harm her and her husband, Martin Perz.
“It was very clear by his tone and motion that he meant to kill me,” Mrs. Perz said in an affidavit reviewed on Wednesday by The Blade.
Perz, 29, killed himself in his Maumee home while barricaded in his house at 1145 Kirk St., just hours after he gunned down his one-time, live-in girlfriend while Miss Gerber tried to flee in her car.
Perz had been free on his own recognizance from Sylvania Municipal Court, where he pleaded guilty Feb. 27 to violating orders from Lucas County Domestic Relations Court to have no contact with Miss Gerber. He was awaiting sentencing.
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The handling of Perz’s case in Toledo and Sylvania has brought criticism from Miss Gerber’s family that she was not well-served by law enforcement.
And Perz’s release after violating a no-contact order while he was serving a 180-day sentence for domestic violence and unlawful restraint has brought the case under scrutiny in Sylvania and by Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates.
Meanwhile, Ms. Bates offered new information about why the Sept. 7, 2012, kidnapping charge against Perz was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor in Toledo Municipal Court. She said the victim wanted the case handled as a misdemeanor and suggested Miss Gerber passed up opportunities to get away from Perz, apparently undermining the kidnapping charge.
She said allegations of domestic abuse frequently rely on the victim’s testimony unless prosecutors have other key evidence, such as witnesses, phone calls, or a confession. In this case, she said, Miss Gerber apparently wasn’t willing to pursue the felony charge against Perz.
“The detective talked to her, and this was discussed based on what happened, based on her getting into the car with him — apparently willingly — and some opportunities to leave him and not leaving him,” Ms. Bates said. “This was the best way for this case to be resolved. This is what she wanted.”
She defended the professionalism and work quality of the prosecutors, judges, and the detective.
“They’re all very experienced and top-quality people. Mary Jo Jaggers is a very competent, conscientious, domestic violence detective, really cares about victims, and really does her utmost to do us right, and if she thought this was the right thing to do, I have to think it probably was," Ms. Bates said.
Miss Gerber’s father, Jeff, disagreed that it was his daughter who wanted the case dropped to a misdemeanor.
He said Detective Jaggers was the “go-between” outside Courtroom 3 at the Municipal Court building, a special courtroom where the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office decides which cases should get more high-profile attention by being bound over to a grand jury.
He said his daughter never got to talk to the prosecutor face-to-face. The lead prosecutor in Courtroom 3, Candace Cooper, referred questions to Ms. Bates.
“Kaitlin was ready to go before the grand jury because she definitely wanted that,” Mr. Gerber said.
The case involved the allegation that Perz held Miss Gerber against her will, beat her, and threatened her. Perz later pleaded no contest to unlawful restraint, a reduced charge that Miss Gerber agreed to in writing, and to domestic violence, and was given the maximum sentence on both charges, concurrent terms of 60 and 180 days at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio.
Mr. Gerber acknowledged that at some point, his daughter could have fled the situation at Country Creek Lane, where they were both living.
According to what Miss Gerber told them of the incident on Sept. 7, Perz came to her work at a Sylvania Township car dealership angry that he had seen her talking to a male colleague. He made her get in his car, took away her cell phone, and took her to the residence on Country Creek Lane.
Over a four-hour period, Perz hit her in the face, punched her in the stomach, and threatened to beat her with a meat mallet, leaving her with visible bruises, according to police and court records. At some point he left the room and attempted to hang himself, and Miss Gerber cut him down and urged him to take a shower, at which point she called 911.
“Yes, she got herself out of the situation. Yes, she cut him down,” Mr. Gerber said.
The information about Perz’s threats against his stepmother was not part of the case file when the prosecutor’s office decided to reduce the felony kidnapping charge to a misdemeanor.
“I can tell you that in the documents I reviewed there was no indication of a protective order from Monroe County,” said Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division of the prosecutor’s office.
Perz also made threats in the Monroe County case, prompting his stepmother to obtain a court order last year to keep him from having any contact with her family. The threats, according to Mrs. Perz’s sworn statement, stemmed from her stepson losing custody of his 4-year-old daughter.
She testified in the statement that she was afraid her stepson might have a gun.
“A couple months ago, Jashua told me and showed me pictures, that he has two guns, even though he is a felon,” she said.
She also said Perz said he would come to her home to “take care of me,” and “bury me,” and used his fist in a threatening motion to hit her.
The accusations she made in the petition were enough to persuade Judge John Hohman, who presides over Family Court, to have Perz served with papers that restricted him from coming into the home Mrs. Perz shares in Lambertville with her husband and Jashua Perz’s father, Martin, or calling on the telephone.
Under Judge Hohman’s orders, Perz couldn’t purchase or possess guns in the county or have any contact with his stepmother, including at Douglas Road Elementary, where she is the principal.
Mrs. Perz and her husband filed a police report on March 2, 2012, with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, claiming that Perz had made threatening phone calls. The couple told officers that Perz held them responsible for him losing legal custody of his child.
The personal protection order was scheduled to expire on March 5. However, Mrs. Perz, 55, returned to court in Monroe on Feb. 13 to extend it, and Judge Frank Arnold continued the order until March 5, 2014.
Perz could have contested the court order after he was served with the papers but failed to do so. There is no record of him being charged with violating the order by contacting the couple.
Mr. and Mrs. Perz could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Sylvania Law Director James Moan, who is reviewing the handling of the violation of the protection order in Sylvania Municipal Court, said he didn’t know if Prosecutor Robert Pyzik knew about the personal protection order in Monroe. Mr. Pyzik has refused to respond to Blade interview requests.
Perz’s attorney, Pete Rost, said the last contact he had with his client was on March 2 when they met at his office. He said Perz, who had been released on his recognizance four days earlier, was calm and understood what he could face at his sentencing in May.
“This is a tragedy for the Gerber family and the Perz family, who didn’t have anything to do with this. It is an agonizing situation for everybody. Nothing good comes out of this other than the realization that when somebody is intent on doing harm, there is not much the system can do to stop it,” Mr. Rost said.
Perz’s order to stay away from his stepmother was one in a string of criminal and family law cases that paint a picture of a threatening and abusive man:
● In 2007, Perz was sentenced to 180 days in jail, with 100 days suspended, by Toledo Municipal Court for a misdemeanor conviction of endangering children. Perz was accused of smacking his now-ex-wife’s 21-month-old child on the buttocks hard enough to leave “deep bruises.”
● In 2008, he was convicted of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, a second-degree felony, and was placed on community control. The conviction in Lucas County Common Pleas Court earned him the brand of sex offender. A related charge that he attempted to have sex with a minor was dropped.
● The record of his divorce from Lisa Perz, the former Lisa Ferguson, showed that he was under a protective order. Mrs. Perz’s lawyer, attorney Stephen Hales, wrote to the judge in that case seeking a contempt citation because he was allegedly harassing her with phone calls, emails, and texts. “Mrs. Perz lives in growing fear of his escalating behavior,” Mr. Hales wrote in June, 2011. The divorce was granted in October, 2011.
Staff writers Vanessa McCray, Mark Reiter, and Jennifer Feehan contributed to this report.
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6058.