KOLO 8 News Now Special Report: Tragedy at the Doorstep/Cassidy's Story

Cassidy Perry, 19
By  | 

Each year thousands, mostly women, seek Temporary Protection Orders, T.P.O.'s, a legal order recognizing a potential threat and ordering someone, usually a former partner, to stay away.

In most cases, that's the end of it. They do what they're intended to do.

But sometimes the escalation continues with tragic results.

Cassidy Perry has lived through that ordeal.

"I thought he was the one. I thought him and me were going be together forever. Because of that I ignored the abuse, I ignored the physical abuse and the mental abuse."

At 19, she is a survivor. It is, frankly, an unlikely miracle she's here to tell the story of a relationship gone horribly bad and the inability of the justice system to protect her or her family.

But that tragic story begins as most relationships do, with a promising beginning. She met 22 year old Michael Brentlinger last year, introduced through friends.

"For the first month and a half, two months, it was really good and then we started fighting.".

Brentlinger was typically well mannered around her parents, though they expressed doubt when the two moved in together in a home they owned next door.

But things were only getting worse.

"He didn't care about my feelings. We'd get into an argument and I'd be sitting there crying my eyes out and he would just play his video games. He just didn't care.

They fell into a pattern breaking up only to get back together.

Finally she and her family had had enough. He was told to leave, but he wouldn't let go.

He began stalking her, following her, blocking her car, texting her, leaving things at her door.

"It's like you're always looking over your shoulder. You never feel totally safe."

Finally, Thanksgiving Day weekend, she found him in the trailer in her parents' back yard, going through her things. The confrontation turned physical and threatening.

"He said, 'If you call the cops and do anything to jeopardize my job, I'm going to get you.'"

She called police and he was arrested for trespassing and she applied for a temporary protective order.

Carson City courts see applications for more than 400 T-P-O's a year. There are about a hundred current cases on file. Most are just a precaution, but as they pass through, Jennifer Brooks watches for signs of serious threats.

"When I see the actual applicant bring their orders in, it's their demeanor that usually will trigger alarm bells for me," she says, "because they're crying, they're visibly shaken and afraid. Those are the ones you look into more."

When she sees one with disturbing details, she notifies the sheriff, but Cassidy's case raised no such red flags.

"I finally started to relax," says Cassidy. "People were telling me he's out doing his own thing and I'm like that's cool. I'm happy for him. Maybe he's finally going to leave me alone."

But unseen, things were escalating. Brentlinger had stolen a .45 caliber handgun and Cassidy and her mother now believe he was still hanging around their neighborhood.

Then in the early morning hours of December 28th she heard someone walking in her hallway.

"I really didn't want to think it was him, but I thought it was most likely going to be him."

She called her parents. Her father came armed just in case.

Her father confronted Brentlinger in the hallway just outside his daughter's door. Cassidy says Brentlinger had a strange look on his face. She did not see his gun.

Guy Perry pushed his daughter back into her room, out of the way.

"My Dad said 'stand back or step back or something. And I heard the gunshots. I screamed 'dad, no.' "

She thought at first her father had fired a shot. "Then I saw him fall. I turned around to grab my phone and call the police and that's when he (Brentlinger) shot me."

Guy Perry lay dying, shot in the chest. Cassidy had been hit in the back of her head.

Her brother who had been sleeping in his room across the hall, struggled with Brentlinger. There were more shots. One through her brother's door narrowly missed him, the bullet leaving a hole through the outside wall ending up in a neighbor's front room.

Brentlinger fled and for two days remained at large. Then his family led police to a Reno park. Officers found him sitting under a tree. When they tried to talk with him he turned the gun on himself.

Miraculously the bullet that hit Cassidy didn't penetrate her skull, but exited near her eye.

Today there's still some swelling on that side of her face and there's a small scar below her eye, but there's little other evidence of her wound.

She's been left with scars, physical and emotional, but she's on the mend, dealing with the loss of her father, still wondering how and why it all happened.

"I don't understand why he did what he did."

That may be beyond our knowing. Jennifer Brooks says only a small percentage of the protection orders on file in her office raise obvious red flags, but these files may also contain some who like Michael Brentlinger pose hidden dangers.

"And unfortunately you can't be in the mind of the adverse party. You just don't know what they're planning and thinking."

And that's a sobering thought.

As for Cassidy Perry, it may be months more before the extent of any permanent damage is known. She still can't hear out of her right ear. But she seems less concerned about those issues than you might expect. She looks at life differently now, she says.

She's undergoing counseling. She says she's more fearful now than before and will be wary of future relationships.

It may take a lifetime to deal with the loss of her father, as they were very close.

Finally, she agreed to talk with us because she wanted to tell other young women in bad relationships not to ignore the abuse, to act, because they will get worse.