Nearly two years ago, 14-year-old Bresha Meadows made headlines for killing her father after he allegedly abused her mother. This week, she was released from custody at age 16.
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The Ohio teen served time at a juvenile detention center and a mental health facility. On Sunday, she returned home to her family’s care.
Her case garnered national attention, sparking conversations about black women and girls and the criminal justice system.
Hearing about Bresha Meadows’ story for the first time? Here’s what you should know.
Tell me about the case.
On July 28, 2016, Meadows shot her father Jonathan Meadows in the head while he was sleeping at their home, according to a police report. Her mother Brandi Meadows called 911, and the police arrived shortly and arrested Bresha. Jonathan’s death was ruled a homicide.
The teenager, along with her two siblings and mom, said he was physically and verbally abusive and often threatened the family with the same gun Bresha used to shoot him. Her mother called her a hero.
“She helped me; she helped all of us so we could have a better life,” Brandi told Fox 8 News in Cleveland at the time.
How did her other relatives react?
“From day one she was born into a nightmare,” Martina Latessa, a Cleveland officer and Bresha’s aunt on her mother’s side, said to Fox 8 News. “She was begging me for help. She was very, very scared for her mother and sisters.”
Sheri Latessa, another aunt, also alleged that Jonathan was abusive and said Bresha had once run away from home.
Jonathan’s siblings, however, called Bresha a murderer, according to WFMJ.
"She had ran away from home because she was doing things that a 14-year-old should not be doing. So she's not a hero, she's a murderer. She killed my brother. This was cold, calculated. He was killed in his sleep, and the family is doing everything they can to discredit my brother. And it's not fair," said Lena Cooper, Jonathan’s sister.
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How did the legal system handle the case?
Prosecutors charged Bresha with aggravated murder and attempted to try her as an adult. If convicted, she could have faced life in prison without parole. She was ultimately tried as a child, and in May, she pleaded true to a charge of involuntary manslaughter, which is the equivalent of guilty in juvenile court.
She was ordered to serve one year in a juvenile detention center and six months at a mental health facility. She also received two years of probation. Earlier this year, she was released to her family’s care. When she becomes 21, her record will be sealed and expunged.
Did activists rally around the case?
Yes, a GoFundMe page was set up, and organizers raised more than $150,000 for Bresha and her family. The hashtag #FreeBresha was also created to advocate for her. Many wrote letters and started petitions, demanding Bresha’s release.
“Bresha should never have been incarcerated, but it is a win nonetheless,” organizers Mariame Kaba and Colby Lenz wrote in a Teen Vogue op-ed published after Bresha returned home. “Bresha’s case also reminds us why we all must work to develop and practice transformative solutions to violence that do not rely on carceral systems, including policing, prosecution, and prisons.”