Victims implicated in stalker's demise

Sunday, October 12, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Blurring the line between mere nuisance and legitimate threat, Donald Brinkmeyer flouted court orders that he stay away from his ex-wife.

Time and again, he was where he wasn't supposed to be -- slinking around Sharon Brinkmeyer's home, at times dressed in camouflaged duds and hiding under her car in her driveway. Other times, he shadowed her as she drove, casting an obscene gesture her way whenever he got the chance.

Prison stopped the pestering until he was released in February. And within months, he had picked up where he left off, this time hounding Richard and Kerstin Pearia in a case with a violent twist: That St. Charles County couple now is implicated in Brinkmeyer's death.

Driving a wedge

Brinkmeyer was angry, authorities said, believing that his ex-girlfriend had been seeing Richard Pearia. By stalking the Pearias and a woman, who is Richard Pearia's cousin, police said, the 6-foot, 180-pound Brinkmeyer was bent on driving a wedge between them.

All of it came to a boil Tuesday night, when investigators said Brinkmeyer followed Kerstin Pearia home. That's where they said Richard Pearia shot an unarmed Brinkmeyer -- possibly firing more rounds after he fell wounded -- in what authorities call unjustified use of deadly force.

"We believe the force continuum is pretty cut and dried -- you don't bring a knife to a fistfight, and you don't bring a gun to a knife fight," St. Charles County Sheriff's detective Gerry Pollard said. "In this case, Pearia crossed the line."

Said prosecutor Jack Banas, "The evidence is inconsistent with the theory of self-defense."

Richard Pearia, 51, is jailed on a $1 million bond on charges of second-degree murder and armed criminal action -- felonies carrying a possible sentence of life behind bars. Authorities suspect that Kerstin Pearia, 45, got an ice pick at her husband's behest, and the pick was placed next to Brinkmeyer's body, as if to suggest the man was armed.

Kerstin Pearia, jailed on $100,000 cash-only bond, faces up to four years in prison on a charge she hindered prosecution.

A message left Friday with her attorney was not returned. Richard Pearia apparently has not retained counsel, court officials said.

Messages left Friday with some of Brinkmeyer's St. Louis-area relatives were also unreturned.

The shooting came just eight days after Kerstin Pearia got a court-issued protection order against Brinkmeyer, whom she said pledged that "everyone is going to be as unhappy as he is."

Brinkmeyer, 51, had not yet been handed a copy of the order barring his contact with Kerstin Pearia or her family, Pollard said. Regardless, it likely wouldn't have made much difference to Brinkmeyer, who had long made clear that court orders meant nothing to him.

In February 2000, after Brinkmeyer pinned his ex-wife to the floor by pressing his arm to her throat, a St. Louis County judge ordered Brinkmeyer to stay away from the woman and her house.

Yet within days, Brinkmeyer was tiptoeing through the yard of his wife's neighbor, crouching to spy on her.

Pestering by car and phone

Time and again, he was charged with misdemeanor counts of violating the protection order. Often, he got probation and, at times, 30-day jail terms that allowed him to be released to work.

By early 2001, Brinkmeyer was still at it, pestering her by car when he wasn't hounding her with telephone calls.

All of it caught up to Brinkmeyer that April, when his probation was yanked and he got concurrent three-year prison sentences on two felony counts of violating protection orders.

When freed in February, Brinkmeyer was to be under the state supervision through next February. But it wasn't long before he was back to stalking, authorities said.

Brinkmeyer was being sought by state prison officials for concealing his whereabouts by the time he resurfaced again on Tuesday, when Kerstin Pearia, while refueling her vehicle, spotted the stalker parked nearby and "became somewhat alarmed," Pollard said.

Police and court records said by the time she emerged from the convenience store, Brinkmeyer was gone. During Kerstin Pearia's five-minute drive home, a car in front of her slowed down.

Brinkmeyer.

Kerstin Pearia grabbed her cell phone and called home, where her husband told her to use her vehicle to block in Brinkmeyer along their dead-end road, Pollard said. By the time the husband reached the vehicles, Pollard said, Brinkmeyer was on his feet.

Words were exchanged, and shots rang out. Richard Pearia reportedly told investigators that Brinkmeyer had reached behind himself and showed something that looked like a a gun.

"It's a difficult case, that's about all I can say," said Banas, the prosecutor.

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