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Published: 3/27/2013

Family juggles pain, plans for funeral, fund

Drenched in sorrow, relatives want answers and to focus on victim’s talents

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Jeni and Jeff Gerber undertook the sorrowful task Tuesday of planning funeral details for their 20-year-old daughter, Kaitlin, who was shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend who chased her down in a car while firing a gun.

A steady stream of visitors expressing sympathy and toting comfort foods arrived throughout the afternoon at the Gerbers’ house in South Toledo.

But in the midst of their grief, her parents also wrestle with the why: Why her killer, Jashua Perz — who had threatened to kill her, had beaten her, and violated a protection order by calling and writing her letters while locked up — was allowed to go free.

The Gerbers fault the legal system, including Sylvania Municipal Court, for not recognizing the danger, despite his record and the threats he had made. They don’t want their tragedy to befall another family.

“They should be ... accountable for what happened,” Mrs. Gerber said.

She called for a “root-cause analysis” of the series of incidents — major mistakes in their minds — that led to Perz’s release and her daughter’s death. The family wants a review of what happened through the court system and wants to know why Perz’s case was not scrutinized more before his February release.

Among their concerns is that while behind bars, Perz sent Miss Gerber some 20 “over-the-top” letters that described his love for her and painted a picture of the happy life he wanted them to share, her mother said. That correspondence, in violation of a protection order, should have given a judge and prosecutor pause.

“This is a sentinel event,” Mrs. Gerber said.

Yet as the family prepares for a Saturday funeral, relatives want to spend more time remembering Miss Gerber than dwelling on her killer.

Her cousin, Thomasina Zervos, recounted how she received an anonymous Christmas card a few months ago filled with cash. She found out recently the unsigned gift came from Miss Gerber.

“That’s Kaitlin,” Ms. Zervos said. “Had it not been for her, we wouldn’t have had what we had for Christmas.”

Mr. Gerber recalled his daughter’s big heart and spiritual life: “She planted God-seeds everywhere,” he said.

Her mother remembered her cheerful demeanor and forgiving nature. The parents perform in the band Sugar Frog, which plays a mix of classic, current, and Christian music. The two had been planning to sing soon with Miss Gerber at First Baptist Church of Greater Toledo on Pilliod Road, now the location of her visitation and funeral service.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday, with the funeral service at 10 a.m. Saturday. The family also plans to start a fund in her name through the church. A decision has yet to be made on how the funds will be used, except that the money will support her passions and be used in her honor.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com, or 419-724-6065.



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