Woman killed by ex-boyfriend was still involved with him, report says

Kaitlin Gerber and Jashua Perz exchanged 1,700 text messages and calls during the 3 weeks before her death.
Kaitlin Gerber and Jashua Perz exchanged 1,700 text messages and calls during the 3 weeks before her death.

During the three weeks before Jashua Perz shot her to death, Kaitlin Gerber kept up a relationship with him that included exchanging 1,700 text messages and phone calls, staying together overnight, and wearing an engagement ring while also telling a friend she feared for her life, according to a Toledo Police investigation report provided to The Blade.

Ms. Gerber, 20, of South Toledo was gunned down by Perz, 29, of Maumee in the parking lot at Southland Shopping Center about 11:30 a.m. March 24 after he chased her car down.

The case generated criticism of Lucas County, Toledo, and Sylvania officials who had reason to know about Perz’s violent proclivities, but failed to keep him behind bars. But the report reveals that while Ms. Gerber, her family and friends, and law enforcement officials feared for her life, she repeatedly allowed Perz back into it.

Detective Jay Gast and his colleagues interviewed 80 people, including numerous witnesses to the shooting itself, as well as Ms. Gerber’s parents, friends of Ms. Gerber and Perz, and law enforcement authorities involved in the trail of turbulence, threats, and violence left by Perz.

RELATED: ‘Kaitlin’s Law’ being proposed

Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division in the Lucas County Prosecutor’s office, declined to comment specifically on how the new report, which was released on Thursday, reflects how the case was handled.

“Now that people are aware of all the facts, I think that they should be able to reach an opinion of their own,” Mr. Lingo said.

He said the prosecutor’s office has already begun working with the Ohio General Assembly to craft a bill, to be titled Kaitlin’s Law, that would allow jails to block mail and phone calls from domestic-violence abusers to any address, email account, or phone number associated with the victim, regardless of the victim’s wishes.

He called for public understanding of domestic violence as “a community issue." People can alert authorities, even anonymously, if they see people together they know are not supposed to be in contact, he said.

“We can’t do anything unless we know something’s happening,” he said. “If anybody would just step forward and say, ‘I know these people aren’t supposed to be talking, and they are.’ ”

Ms. Gerber’s father, Jeff Gerber, said Perz — who killed himself after he shot Ms. Gerber — was a manipulator “and is still manipulating.” He theorized that Ms. Gerber was playing for time to get away from Perz, and feels the investigators aimed to defend the system and put the blame on his daughter.

“Any wrongdoing on my daughter’s behalf is amplified. Why is it [the investigator] hasn’t asked brothers and sisters on the Gerber side of things of what’s been going on?” Mr. Gerber said. He said his daughter returned the ring that Perz had bought for her and was shot because of it.

He explained his daughter’s apparent continued dalliance with Perz as a combination of his daughter’s forgiving nature and Perz’s manipulation. He theorized she was doing a little self-protective manipulation of her own.

“The only thing I can figure out is that with a lot of females that have been in a domestic-violence situation, sometimes they have to play that stuff along. My son and my daughters feel she was buying herself time,” said Mr. Gerber, who has four other children.

According to the report, the Saturday night before the shooting, Ms. Gerber and Perz were believed to have spent the night together at the Maumee home of Perz’ mother, Sandy Perz, and her boyfriend, Rob Marks, arriving about 11 p.m.

That Sunday morning, the two were seen leaving the Maumee residence to get coffee about 8 a.m. They returned about an hour later, with Perz going inside the house. Two hours after that, Mr. Marks saw Perz leaving and talking on the phone.

Ms. Gerber had made plans with a friend, Rachel Majewski, to exercise at Planet Fitness in the shopping center. At 11:23 a.m., Ms. Majewski received a one-word text message from Ms. Gerber: “Hi.” Ms. Majewski responded but got no reply, causing her to worry for her friend.

According to the report, Perz chased a screaming Ms. Gerber to her car with his SUV and then chased her car through the shopping center, onto Glendale Avenue and South Byrne Road, and then back into the shopping center, firing through his open window at Ms. Gerber’s car. Her car rolled over a curb and came to a stop, and witnesses said Perz pulled his SUV up next to her sedan and shot her several more times before driving away.

Perz returned to his mother’s residence on Kirk Street in Maumee where he told Mr. Marks, “I shot Kaitlin.” At 4:30 p.m., following a standoff outside the house, police found Perz’s body in the bathroom on the first floor with a gunshot to his temple and a Ruger 9mm handgun nearby.

Police said they traced the gun to a man who bought it in Huntington, W.Va., in 2000. The man told police he had returned it to the gun shop where he bought it because it was a “lousy” gun. Police were unable to figure out how and when Perz came into possession of the weapon.

Numerous details in the report suggest Ms. Gerber at times initiated contact, while at other times she was resolute in making Perz face justice.

Police say they have a copy of a message from Ms. Gerber to Perz’s father, Martin Perz, of Lambertville, Mich., conveying birthday wishes to Perz in jail and asking that Perz write to her at her job.

Later, Ms. Gerber took the letters to prosecutors in Toledo and Sylvania municipal courts, leading to Perz being convicted on Feb. 27 in Sylvania Municipal Court of violating a domestic violence protective order. A sentencing date was set, and Perz was released on his own recognizance that day with orders to stay away from Ms. Gerber.

Police also analyzed cell phone usage and found 1,164 text messages from Perz to Ms. Gerber and 560 text messages from her to him between March 1 and March 24. They counted 104 phone calls from Perz and 43 calls from Ms. Gerber.

A co-worker of Ms. Gerber quoted in the report told police Ms. Gerber wore the engagement ring Perz had bought March 19 for $1,900 because “she knew he had a gun and when he proposed she felt threatened that she had to accept so she took the ring from him.” But Ms. Gerber also told the co-worker that “Perz was a changed person” and she believed in forgiveness. The ring was found in its box in Perz’s car after the shootings.

Several people who interacted with Perz were aware that he was violating the domestic-violence protection order against seeing Ms. Gerber.

A probation officer assigned to Perz noticed on March 21 — three days before the killing — at a sex-offender group meeting that he was wearing a wedding band and he confessed that he was engaged to Ms. Gerber.

The officer, Ann Oliver-Niner, warned Perz that contact with Ms. Gerber violated his probation from a previous sex-offense conviction. The next day, March 22, she reported the violation to Sylvania Municipal Court Probation Office, and was informed the violations would be addressed.

A former counselor assigned to Perz learned that Perz was still seeing Ms. Gerber after his release from Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, where he served a six-month term for beating and restraining Ms. Gerber last year. The counselor, Sherry Phillips, contacted Ms. Gerber three times to warn her against seeing Perz.

According to family and friends, Ms. Gerber was planning a trip to Florida on April 10 to get away from Perz.

Ms. Gerber wasn’t the only young woman to experience Perz’s abuse. According to the report, a woman who dated Perz in 2011 told police he was threatening her and her daughter by phone and text message — after his Feb. 27 release from jail. The woman filed a “menacing by stalking report” with Toledo Police on March 11 — two weeks before the killing — but then decided against filing charges.

Staff writer Vanessa McCray contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.