Breaking News Emails
An Ohio teen charged with killing her father, who the family said terrorized them with physical and psychological abuse for years, is nearing a plea deal.
Last July, when Bresha Meadows was just 14, her father Jonathan was sleeping on the couch when he was shot in the head. Police arrested Bresha and took her to the juvenile detention center in Warren.
The girl's mother and two siblings have never denied that Bresha shot her father that night. But they say that in doing so, she saved all of their lives.
On Monday, Trumbull County prosecutor Stanley Elkins and Meadows' attorney Ian Friedman put a plea deal on the table that could see Bresha, now 15-years-old, soon back at home.
"We’re looking at a proposed term of 18 months," Friedman told NBC News, "Which would be subject to inpatient treatment."
Breaking News Emails
Friedman said his goal is a deal that would encapsulate the nine months Meadows has already served, and allow her to serve the remaining nine months of the proposed deal being treated for trauma in a mental health facility instead of "sitting in a jail cell hoping for the best."
A trial for the teen is set to begin May 22. If both parties can reach an agreement on the details, a plea deal will be struck before that date. If not, she'll be tried as a juvenile and could be behind bars till her 21st birthday.
"As an attorney you always prefer to reach an agreement," said Elkins, chief prosecuting attorney for the Trumbull County juvenile division. "It may not be something both sides like, but at least it would happen. When you get before a judge and jury, everything can change."
Elkins wouldn't comment on the specific terms he asked for in the deal, but confirmed that only minor issues are being ironed out: "We believe we are close."
Activist say Bresha's case, and the viral #FreeBresha social media campaign, has come to symbolize the way that domestic violence victims are sometimes punished after surviving traumatic abuse and acting in what many say is typically self-defense.
When Bresha was 9, according to a police report, her mother fled with her three children to escape the husband she said beat and tortured her for years. Jonathan's sister disputes the claims.
“In the 17 years of our marriage he has cut me, broke my ribs, fingers, the blood vessels in my hand, my mouth, blackened my eyes. I believe my nose was broken,” wrote Brandi Meadows, Bresha's mom, in a 2011 police report. “If he finds us, I am 100 percent sure he will kill me and the children.”
But like many survivors of intimate partner violence, Brandi eventually returned. She told Huffington Post in February that she now blames herself: “When I left, I should never have come back, and my daughter wouldn’t be in jail.”
In the same Huffington Post article, Friedman said the children — including Bresha — had also been abused by their dad. But he told NBC News that he cannot reveal details of what happened to the kids. What we do know is that Bresha started cutting herself and running away from home in her early teens. She would stay with her aunt Latessa, a detective who had come to specialize in domestic violence cases because of what she saw happening in her sister's family.
Brandi was at the Ohio courthouse on Monday, along with Bresha's sister Brianna and brother Jonathan Jr., but the rest of the gathered supporters did not actually get to see Bresha —her hearing took place in a private room.
Still, the court was full of relieved family, friends, and local activists when news spread that a deal to free Bresha was being negotiated.
Caryn Austen, an organizer with the Ohio Women's March chapter, said the ongoing incarceration of Bresha Meadows "makes me so angry," she had tears in her eyes as she spoke with NBC News.
"It makes me question justice," said Austen, who identified herself as a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of her own father. "In a civilized society, she wouldn’t be incarcerated, she would be getting treatment for what she’s been through."
Friedman said that Bresha didn't get any mental health treatment for the first several months of being in custody. After months of pressure, the state finally gave Bresha a mental health assessment in February. But Friedman says she should be in round-the-clock counseling and care for what she's survived: "This is going to be a long process of healing."
Until then, Friedman says, Bresha is comforted knowing the #FreeBresha campaign is going strong.
"It’s helped to keep her head up," Friedman said, "Knowing that all these people all over the world support her."