Neighbors say accused Solon killer 'must have thought he was back in the war zone'; Family is heartbroken

Neighbor describes war experience for man accused of killing woman after crash
(Source: WOIO)
(Source: WOIO)

SOLON, OH (WOIO) - Police have identified Matthew Ryan Desha, 29, as the man accused of killing 53-year-old Deborah Pearl after a car crash in Solon on Saturday morning. He appeared in court on murder charges and placed on a $1 million bond.

Police say Desha ran a red light at the intersection of Solon and Richmond Roads and crashed into Pearl's vehicle. His car rolled over before coming to a stop. Police say he then exited the vehicle with a rifle and shot Pearl multiple times.

She was transported to the hospital where she died.

MORE: 911 caller: Solon car crash shooter fired 'randomly' at first

Bernita Ashford, one of Pearl's family members, displays raw emotions when talking about the shooting death of her loved one.

"I'm, like so angry. I'm angry cause he did not have to kill her. It wasn't a reason to kill her," said a brokenhearted Ashford. "Why, how, when, what..."

Too soon to know all the right answers, but this is for sure, Deborah Pearl's family knows how to stay together. They showed en mass Monday in court looking for justice for the woman affectionately called Little Deb.

"This is like a stab in the heart, a stab in the family's heart because Little Deb is one of the nicest person you'd want to meet," Ashford explained.

Desha, of North Ridgeville, was arrested at the scene.

According to court records, Desha has been found guilty of four previous traffic violations. He has been cited twice for speeding, once for having an "unsafe vehicle" and once for failure to control.

According to Mahoning County Court Records Desha was arrested by Boardman police in May and charged with carrying concealed weapons and drug paraphernalia.

Then, earlier this month he was arrested again by Boardman police and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

According to court records, Desha has been out on bond.

Pearl was on her way to work Saturday morning at South East Harley-Davidson in Bedford Heights when the accident happened.Police Desha say ran a red light, got out of his overturned vehicle with a rifle shooting and killed Harris.

"It's gut-wrenching because it's a senseless case of violence," said Rev. Mel Kendall McCray, Pastor of New Beginning Christian Church. "We're very disturbed about it but we trust and believe in the criminal justice system that justice will prevail. We're asking the community to pray for us and keep the family lifted in prayer."

MORE: Family speaks after deadly Solon car crash

Investigators do not believe Desha and Pearl knew each other.

In North Ridgeville one neighbor said Desha was in the military.

"One thing that really bugged him was they got blown up and five of his buddies died and he lived. He was upset about that," said Kathleen Salvatore, neighbor.

She believes he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

"It blew my mind," said Salvatore.

In fact, to talk to Desha's neighbors in the trailer park where he lived, you'd never think the Marine who saw combat overseas would be capable of killing an innocent woman.

Salvatore has a picture of Desha holding her cat. She says Desha suffered from PTSD - that's the only way she can try to explain what happened.

"I think he was just back in the war," said Salvatore, "it definitely wasn't a hate crime because I've heard somebody try to use the "N" word and he got right
on them like, 'no!'"

VFW Post 9871 Commander Jim Hordinski says he's known Desha for years. He also says Desha's struggle with PTSD must have come to a head.

"He could have thought that he was back in the war zone again - who knows what you are thinking about at that point.  I mean, when you have something like that go wrong and then all of a sudden you think you are back there fighting in Iraq," said Hordinski.

Desha has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

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