Despite a series of bad decisions, I think St. Louis resident Rick Pearia is getting a raw deal. Hopefully a judge will agree on July 12 when Pearia is scheduled for sentencing. But first the background.
Pearia last October killed Donald Brinkmeyer in a confrontation that had been months if not years in the making. Brinkmeyer had accused Pearia of having an affair with his ex-girlfriend. But the fact of the matter is that the girlfriend in question was actually Pearia's cousin. There was no affair. But Brinkmeyer was not convinced and had spent months stalking and harassing Pearia and his wife.
To understand Brinkmeyer better you also need to know that stalking and harassment of the Pearia family was not his first. In April 2001, his probation was revoked in cases involving his chronic pestering of his ex-wife. He received prison sentences on two felony counts of violating protection orders. At the time of his death, he was under a court-issued protection order against Pearia's wife. In short, he was apparently a troubled man.
So on the night of Oct. 7, Brinkmeyer went to the Pearia home in violation of a restraining order and got into a confrontation with Rick Pearia. The Pearias called police to the home. But before police arrived, the confrontation became physical. At some point in the fist fight, Pearia thought Brinkmeyer was reaching for a weapon. So he opened fire several times and killed Brinkmeyer. In court he claimed self defense even though Brinkmeyer was unarmed. And to complicate things, Pearia apparently planted a weapon on Brinkmeyer following the shooting to bolster his self-defense claim. That was an obvious mistake.
So now Pearia is facing five years in prison for the shooting. Even though planting the weapon was a stupid move, Pearia had justification in defending his home, his wife and perhaps his own life. Brinkmeyer was the aggressor and had violated the law by going to the Pearia home. Perhaps other actions could have been taken that would not have resulted in the shooting. But given the circumstances, I can fully understand his actions.
As I said at the beginning of this column, despite a series of bad decisions, five years in prison seems inappropriate to protect your home and family. Granted, things could have turned out differently given hindsight. But in the heat of the moment, Pearia's actions were understandable. Now it's up to a judge to decide the outcome.