In this edition of Homicide Brides, we will discuss not just one tragic loss but two – the death of Ms. Kasandra Perkins at the hands of her partner Jovan Belcher and then Jovan taking his own life.
The Greatest Loss of All
It feels important to honor baby Zoey – the lone survivor who has experienced the greatest loss. Zoey will only experience the love of her parents through photos and stories. Baby Zoey was only three months old when she lost both parents in one day, on December 1st of 2012.
Custody battle arguments over Zoey will not be discussed – the low-brow comments of lawyers involved in the case and exploitation of the media are egregious. Neither will Zoey’s yearly payments under the NFL’s “Surviving Child Benefit” other than to say it is good to see the NFL step up this way. Zoey deserves that.
Who was Kasandra Perkins?
Ms. Kasandra was born in McKinney, Texas, in 1990 to her mother, Rebecca Gonzales and father, Darryl Perkins. She grew up in a supportive and loving family. Perkins had one brother, one sister, and extended family such as her cousin Sophie.
Kasandra was going to community college and was said to have dreams of being a teacher and loved her job at a recreational center – she worked with children in the after-school and camp programs. Perkins had a positive, upbeat attitude, was well-liked, and was highly regarded by everyone in her life. Kasandra was a dancer – she was a instructor for the Lone Star Dance Team and taught praise dance at her church.
One year out of high school, Kasandra was introduced to Jovan in 2010 by her cousin Whitney who was married to another NFL player, Jamaal Charles. Perkins would move to Kansas City to be with Jovan in Missouri at the beginning of the 2010 season. In Missouri, she became a member of the Kansas City Chief Woman’s Organization and volunteered for many different organizations, including after-school children’s programs.
Jovan’s friends described Kasandra as innocent, nice, and very young. Moving to MO and getting to know Belcher was apparently eye-opening for her. Kasandra became a mother in September of 2012 to little Zoey after a C-section. By all accounts, Kasandra was delighted to become a mother.
Jovan was born in 1987 in Long Island, NY, to parents, John Belcher and Cheryl Shepard. Jovan had three older sisters; all four were raised by Ms. Cheryl alone. As a multi-sport athlete, Belcher’s athletic skills were front and center in high school. Jovan told his football coach he would go pro in 9th grade.
Jovan was motivated by his mother, perceiving everything he dealt with in life as easy when he considered everything his mother did for him and his sisters. He stuck to his goal to go pro and was never in any trouble in high school – he had a perfect track record and was a teen of high character.
Jovan Belcher was offered a scholarship to play for the Maine Black bears at the University of Maine. He attended the university from 2005 to 2008, majoring in child development and family relations. Belcher was described as quiet and introspective, succeeding on the field and in the classroom. Jovan also was active in the community – he mentored children as a member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and was in a Male Athletes Against Violence group.
Family was everything to Jovan – his mother and sisters would drive up to every home game he played in Maine, and in turn, he would call home every day. During his last three years, Jovan was highly goal-oriented. Jovan had a year-long party phase as a Freshman then dropped the debauchery to focus on his NFL goal.
On the gridiron, Jovan was an outside linebacker in his Freshman and Sophomore years and then changed positions to a defensive end in the last two. Belcher was a Second-Team All-American honors his Junior year and First-Team All-American his Senior year.
Post-college, Jovan attended a training at a sports club in New Jersey to prepare for the draft. Belcher was motivated to prove himself worthy after attending a small school, and attempting to make a name for himself in the NFL. A fellow draft prospect, Walters, befriended Jovan at this time and described him as “uncommonly good.” He would give Girl Scouts a $20 bill without taking a box. Instead of fighting in competition, Jovan wanted to bond with his friend, and they encouraged each other mutually, looking out for one another.
Jovan (and his friend) waited for all seven rounds of the NFL draft, but didn’t get picked. Belcher was so frustrated he dug a hole in his mother’s yard for a pond. Both men would be offered a free agent contract, made it through training camp, and on to the 53-man roster as Kansas City Chiefs. A year before Jovan met Kasandra, he had made it – he was in the NFL!
Like most things in life, the NFL wasn’t all it was cracked up to be for Belcher. Jovan had a dark side that emerged during college – he struggled with relationships with women. Belcher would punch out a glass window in his dorm, severely lacerating his arm and nearly severing his thumb, after an argument with a girlfriend.
Campus police responded to another incident the following year when a concerned outside party called due to concern over raised voices in their dorm hallway. Jovan was arguing with his partner, but things were not physical, and no alcohol was involved. The girl left. and there were no additional problems. These two events were anomalies in Belcher’s typically positive, high-achieving college life. Situations like this would become less rare for Jovan after his debut in the NFL.
Peer pressure and the culture within the NFL was getting to Jovan. Belcher’s prior concern about avoiding partying and alcohol was now gone. Not entirely unusual for a newly successful, rich, young man. In a more surprising shift, Jovan suddenly had eight guns despite never having them before. The death of a former NFL player due to a home invasion had players on edge, and nearly everyone owned a firearm for self-defense or feeling pressure to because all his teammates did.
Jovan was also nearly always in constant pain – his wrists, ankles, head and neck were constantly throbbing since day one. His first concussion was documented in his rookie year, but he played through that and much more – never complaining about the pain. Alcohol is a sort of self-help medicine many players partake in to handle the physical pain, couching it within celebrations. It was also suspected that Belcher was abusing large amounts of pain medicine to cope with the physical pain.
The emotional stress was doing Belcher in as well. Pressure was weighing heavy on the young man. Former teammates claim that Jovan was the verbal punching bag for many coaches, insulting and constantly threatening him with a replacement. He was brought to tears by the stress. The team’s poor performance overall was not helping, and Belcher was getting more than his fair share of blame despite being an over-performer.
This was the emotional backdrop to Jovan and Kasandra’s new relationship.
Oil and water, fire and ice
When things were bad, they were very bad – the two were like oil and water. The two were in their early 20s, when it is easy to confuse the highs and lows, the passions and woes that accompany a relationship – something they may have matured out of if they had survived to do so. The two would argue incessantly and attend relationship counseling. Friends would say real love existed there and Belcher wanted to marry Perkins one day.
On the other hand, when things were good with the couple, things were great. The couple loved trying out new restaurants, hosting parties, and the hobbies they shared. Both had a philanthropic spirit, Kasandra mostly with after-school programs, and Jovan with different community service projects in Kansas City. He was always willing to donate time to visit kids at schools or hand out turkeys at food banks during Thanksgiving – his teammates said he would never say no when he could help.
Admittedly, Belcher had a weird way of showing his love for his girlfriend. He had a girl on the side since March of 2012 that Perkins was unaware of – Kasandra thought he just had groupies. The other woman knew of her, though – Jovan allegedly told his side-piece that he would shoot Kasandra if he would not leave her alone weeks before he did and said Perkins threatened to take his baby and his money when they broke up. He was interested in fighting for custody of his daughter.
Then the arguing got worse – Jovan was out late more, drinking more, and Kasandra had concerns about his level of commitment, money, and other adulting problems the young couple was sorting out. And then Kasandra got pregnant. A different, exciting kind of pressure that both young people were ready for. Jovan was going to be there for his child like his father wasn’t. He would be a present father for his daughter.
The couple had moved to a larger rental house with a man cave. Belcher was thrilled – he was 25, had an extended contract, a house, a car, and a baby on the way. Healing seemingly came with baby Zoey as the couple bonded over the birth of their beautiful daughter. The argument stopped for a little while. Jovan’s mother moved in with the couple to support the struggling couple and help take care of their newborn.
Just two weeks before the incident, Kassandra had left Belcher to go live with family, but returned to Missouri to be with Jovan a few days before everything went tragically wrong.
November 18th, 2012. The Chiefs were playing the Cincinnati Bengals at a home game and losing 28-6. At the end of the 4th quarter, Belcher brought Green-Ellis to the ground in a run-of-the-mill tackle. The concussion protocol was one year old and was pretty much still a sham at that point in time, so no one noticed when Jovan was stunned on the ground, shook his head to clear the cobwebs, and returned to the huddle.
Something was wrong – Jovan knew it, and his teammates knew it. He had frequent headaches, forgot things, was depressed, and had emotional outbursts – especially anger. You couldn’t have a conversation with the guy – he couldn’t remember the conversation and would drift off mid-sentence. Belcher didn’t miss a practice. Jovan played the following week – another loss. The last game he would ever play. After his untimely passing, the Chiefs claimed he was not heavily concussed – something his teammates would firmly deny. Many believe he had more than one on November 18th.
The fateful day(s)
November 30th, 2012. Jovan was just told by his best friend Kash that he wouldn’t be able to fly out and see Jovan the following day. Belcher told Kash that was fine – he understood. Jovan did – he understood that one of the few things he was looking forward to was gone. Kash didn’t think about it any longer – and he shouldn’t have; Kash had no way of knowing, nor was he responsible in any way.
Jovan was angry – Kasandra had gone to the Trey Songz concert with her friends on the night of November 30th and was out till 1 AM on December 1st. After a heated fight at their home, Kasandra went back out to party at a club. Jovan was at the same club with his side girl. He lost track of the other woman and left trying to find her – he went to her apartment but couldn’t find her.
Police found Belcher asleep in his car, clearly drunk. They told him to get some sleep at his girlfriend’s place, but when he couldn’t locate her, a neighbor volunteered to let him sleep on their couch. He would wake up and drive home at 7 AM on that fateful day. The couple began arguing again – allegedly, they were arguing over the baby’s paternity, and Cheryl heard him say that Kasandra would not speak to him that way, followed by a thump and the discharge of a firearm.
Kasandra was shot 9 times. Cheryl ran to the room, and witnessed her son kiss Ms. Perkins’s forehead, apologizing. He then kissed his mother and his daughter before fleeing from the home. Cheryl called 911 immediately and tried to encourage Kasandra to stay alive.
Jovan drove to the Chief’s practice facility and ran into the Chief’s GM, Scott Pioli, holding a different firearm. Belcher thanked Pioli for signing him, told him he murdered his girlfriend, and told him to say to the team owner to take care of Zoey. Jovan then asked Pioli to bring out his head coach, Romeo Crenell. Belcher thanked Crenell as soon as he saw him.
Crenell and Pioli begged Jovan to drop the firearm. Crenell attempted to talk Belcher down, letting him know that life was not over, things could be sorted out, and he still had a chance. Jovan walked 20 feet away from both men, kneeled, made the sign of the cross, and then discharged his firearm into his head.
Walters, Jovan’s friend from New Jersey all those many years ago, texted Jovan on December 1st. Belcher loved bacon more than life itself, and Walters wanted to let him know he had a dream that Jovan had a bacon farm – literal bacon was growing out of the ground. Walters didn’t hear from Jovan but didn’t think anything about it – until he saw the news. He would never be the same.
Neither would Ms. Becky in Texas when the police called her and let her know her worst fear had come true – she had lost a child. The grief is unspeakable and unbelievable. Becky does find comfort in seeing her daughter’s eyes shine through Zoey. She also hopes this story brings awareness to domestic violence and supports domestic violence causes in her daughter’s honor.
Everyone was shell-shocked. Not a single family member could believe Jovan would do such a thing. Quotes from friends, teammates, and coaches from his high school, college, and the Kansas City Chiefs showed that everyone was in shock and in complete disbelief – no one saw this coming. No one thought Jovan was capable. No one had a negative word to say, an honest word about some of his shortcomings maybe, but no one had any indication he would do such a thing. That can’t be said for everyone.
His best friend Kash said: “Jovan Belcher was one of the best people I ever knew. Life is complicated. But no matter how it ended, and no matter what people say, he was one of the best.” Kasandra’s friends would like everyone to remember that Ms. Perkins had it all and that she is far more than a football player’s girlfriend.
My Controversial hot take
Jovan Belcher was a 25-year-old football player who already had CTE (he had neurofibrillary tangles of tau protein in his hippocampus). His mother had him exhumed a year after his death to get answers about his neurological health. The period of time between his death and the exam, as well as the bullet in his brain, could not obscure the effects of CTE.
Symptoms of CTE include: memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism, and, eventually, progressive dementia. Former football players should not be stigmatized as violent – they usually aren’t. But it’s not shocking if impulse control, impaired judgment, and aggression culminate in this way.
Prevention, education, and support for current and former NFL athletes and their loved ones is crucial. If we can be open and transparent about the impacts football does have, instead of trying to undermine it or ignore it, we can help players and those around them remain as healthy mentally as possible.
I hope that we can come to a place as a society at some point to acknowledge that a person with early onset symptoms of dementia and/or CTE should be viewed as not fully competent. Young people with early onset dementia and/or early signs of CTE should be afforded the same understanding we have for senior citizens in their 70s and 80s who commit crimes.
We have the desire to assign responsibility to an individual when they commit a crime. If we are forced to consider that crime can be a result of many different things and not just the moral failure of the individual, we might have to find culpability in part elsewhere.
With statistical evidence from a peer-reviewed journal showing a causative (not just associated) relationship between head trauma from football and CTE, we may find that accountability exists with the employer, as any workplace hazard would be. Particularly if that workplace were to allegedly obscure the scientific facts for decades and not take basic steps to limit the dangers associated with head trauma without dragging their feet. I digress – for now.
For more homicide bride articles, look here and here.
For More Great Football Content
Follow us on Twitter at @GridironHeroics for more great content. We appreciate you taking time to read our articles. To interact more with our community and keep up to date on the latest in Football news, JOIN OUR FREE FACEBOOK GROUP by CLICKING HERE