CLEVELAND (AP) — A man charged with murder for fatally shooting a woman after a traffic accident near Cleveland served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, records show.
Matthew Desha, 29, of North Ridgeville, is being held on a $1 million bond in Solon, where the slaying occurred. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Bedford Municipal Court.
Solon police said Desha ran a red light at an intersection on Saturday morning and struck a car driven by 53-year-old Deborah Pearl, of Twinsburg, who was headed to work. The impact caused Desha’s sport utility vehicle to roll over several times. Police said Desha fired multiple rounds at Pearl with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
A witness who saw the crash said Pearl’s arms were raised when she was shot. A Solon police lieutenant said there are no indications that Pearl and Desha knew each other.
Desha’s court-appointed attorney didn’t return telephone messages on Tuesday.
A minister from Pearl’s church attended Desha’s initial court appearance on Monday and spoke for her family.
“We’re baffled that something as basic as a car crash could turn into a homicide,” Pastor Mel Kendall McCray told Cleveland.com after the hearing. “It’s just beyond our comprehension.”
The commander of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in North Ridgeville speculated on Tuesday that Desha might have had a flashback from his combat experience in Iraq. Military records show that Desha served four years in the Marines from 2004 to 2008.
Commander Jim Hordinski called Desha a “good man” who had “stopped working” on his treatment for PTSD.
“It’s a terrible situation,” Hordinski said.
A North Ridgeville police report from 2011 said Desha told officers responding to a noise complaint that he had PTSD and slept with a handgun under his pillow. Two years later, a PTSD counselor at a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic asked police to check on Desha after he missed group therapy sessions. Desha told officers at the time that he’d stopped attending the sessions because he was sick, a police report said.
Desha was stopped by police in the Youngstown suburb of Boardman in late May for a missing taillight. Desha initially wouldn’t allow police to search his vehicle, claiming he was a “constitutionalist,” a police report said. Officers found a 9mm handgun and traces of white powder inside the vehicle that Desha said was a mix of Epsom salts and caffeine pills that he’d just snorted.