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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Investigation of Solon Shooting

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 1:38 PM

click to enlarge ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • ERIC SANDY / SCENE
"She's the victim. Not him."

Khalid Samad, co-founder of Peace in the Hood, stands with a group of women Wednesday evening in the parking lot outside Solon City Hall. They're discussing the previous four days of media coverage surrounding the bizarre and tragic events of Aug. 27 that led to 29-year-old Matthew Desha killing 52-year-old Deborah Pearl at the intersection of Richmond and Solon roads. 

The group vents and insists that, at this point, there should be more concrete answers and less speculation over Desha's troubling past. Samad says it's hard to shake the feeling that the investigation so far has been "more of a search to find an excuse as to what he did than to get to the bottom of it." See, in the wake of the shooting, the spotlight has been focused squarely on Desha's history of post-traumatic stress disorder following a four-year stint with the U.S. Marine Corps. 

Shortly after 7 a.m. on Aug. 27, Desha drove through a red light and speared the driver's side of Pearl's Ford Taurus. (Pearl, of course, was driving through a green light. She was on her way to work at the South East Harley-Davidson dealership.) Desha's SUV rolled several times and ended up on its roof. Both drivers survived the impact, but when they emerged from their vehicles, Desha was seen by witnesses gripping a Stag Arms AR-15 rifle. He approached Pearl and shot her multiple times, killing her.

Desha was charged with murder. His case will be sent to a Cuyahoga County grand jury.

Outside Solon City Hall last night, local community leaders and representatives from activist organizations wonder aloud how the case will be treated by the press, by the prosecutor, by the people. Desha was white, and Pearl was black. Several people float the idea that this could be considered a hate crime, the targeted murder of a black woman with no other clear motive. 

"Mr. Desha murdered Mrs. Pearl in a violent, cruel and thoughtless way," Judy Martin says. "This is a hate crime because this is a white man who targeted a black woman specifically." 

Investigators and police have not publicly determined a motive in the killing. For Pearl's family and a Northeast Ohio community already flecked with increasing rates of violent crime, a sea of frustration and confusion floods the proceedings.

“I’m angry because he did not have to kill her. It was no reason to kill her,” Bernita Ashford, one of Pearl’s relatives, said Monday morning at Bedford Municipal Court. “And shoot an innocent woman? Innocent! Defenseless! She survived the crash, and you murdered her! You murdered her! You murdered Little Deb! You took her away from us.”

The group urged for greater transparency than the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office has provided in past high-profile cases. 

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