Kansas City still healing over horrific events surrounding Belcher murder-suicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nine times.

That’s the image that will never leave us.

Nine times.

Jovan Belcher, Chiefs linebacker, stood over his girlfriend, the mother of his child, and savagely shot her nine times. All his rage poured into those nine bullets that ripped through her flesh, through her neck, her chest, her abdomen, her hip, her arm, her back.

Nine times.

At least that’s what the autopsy said. A police report later suggested he may have fired even more.

No matter. It’s all gruesome enough.

It was one-year ago this Sunday that Belcher engaged in one of the most heinous acts imaginable, murdering his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, in a drunken fit. We’ll never know the exact reasons why. Was it because of finances? Was it jealousy? Was it over custody of their three-month daughter Zoey?

Belcher took any and all answers to his grave. After shooting Perkins at the home they shared in eastern Kansas City, he drove to the Arrowhead practice facility and shot himself in the head as then general manager Scott Pioli and then head coach Romeo Crennel pleaded with him to put the gun down.

As news of the grisly murder-suicide filtered out, most of us were in disbelief.

We all tend to be slightly immune to the tragic events that dominate the daily news, all those murders and ghastly crimes that scroll across the tickers each day. But when a tragedy strikes so close to home — this was a Kansas City Chief for heaven’s sake — it resonates for days, months, even longer.

This was especially true in the Belcher murder-suicide because of the details we learned. This crime went beyond tragic. This was horrifying.

Nine times.

We simply can’t process something so hideous.

As the months went by, our community tried to heal and tried to understand just who Jovan Belcher was and just what could have driven him to such an act. Was he a monster or was he just a troubled human being who did a monstrous thing? Is there even a difference?

We know Belcher’s blood alcohol was twice the legal limit at the time of his crime. We know he and Perkins had been fighting for weeks. We know he was worried she might take his money, and even worse, might take their daughter away from him.

We know he had a secret girlfriend.

And we know something awful seemed to be brewing the night before the tragic events.

Belcher, according to Sports Illustrated, texted his former college teammate Reggie Paramoure on the night before the murder and termed Perkins as “crazy.”

One text exchange went like this:

Paramoure: “I see yall boys aint doing too well (referring to the Chiefs’ 1-10 start). Wats goen on wit u besides ball.”

Belcher: “Yea man,our ‘o’ can’t even put 7 in the board for us, but everything good bro, baby momma crazy but I have a little girl almost 3 month man and she’s a blessing, she makes me smile on the worst day.”

Paramoure: “Daughter!”

Paramoure then joked: “better have a gun ready to ward off future boyfriends.”

Belcher: “Yea man I got about 8 guns now, from hand Gunz to assault rifles for her little bf’s.”

We also know that Belcher spent the early morning hours of Dec. 1 sleeping in his car outside his secret girlfriend’s house before a neighbor alerted the police that a suspicious person was outside. We know there were accusations that the police didn’t do their job when it must have appeared obvious to them (judging by Belcher’s BAC) that Belcher had been drinking. The police allowed Belcher to call someone inside the apartment and then sleep there for a few hours.

And, of course, we know Belcher eventually went back to the home he shared with Perkins, and where his mother, Cheryl Shepherd, also was staying to help look after Zoey.

It is then the arguing started and…

“It’s impossible to think of Jovan doing that,” former teammate Thomas Jones told me at the time. “It’s not the Jovan I knew.

“But what he did was a horrible thing, the most horrible thing you can do.”

And that was perhaps the hardest part for the Chiefs organization, its players and its fans, all of whom were in this awkward state of not knowing how to process their pain and mourning. Yes, grieve for Kasandra Perkins, and the now parent-less child, Zoey. But grieve for Jovan Belcher? No way. He was a murderer, a coward.

Perhaps no one was caught more in this emotional flux than Jamaal Charles, whose wife, Whitney, was a first cousin to Perkins. Whitney also was the one who introduced Perkins to Belcher.

It was almost nine months before Charles, who knew Perkins since the eighth grade, even broached the subject of the tragedy publicly. He finally opened up slightly to The Kansas City Star during training camp saying that the trauma of that day “still brings (chills) and shock to me. Man, not just Jovan, but … (Perkins) was a sister to me, and she’s like a sister to my wife, so it’s hard. At the same time, my wife still is getting through those tough days. And thinking about her, she cries still.

“But we’ve got to just start over again. You’ve got to just bring all of the memories you had with her. And since she’s not here anymore, you’ve still got to continue to … just bring all the memories with you that she (created) when she was alive.”

Chiefs players, too, have been reluctant to talk of that fateful day’s events as the anniversary approaches.

“You have two families grieving,” linebacker Tamba Hali said. “To talk about it, to rehash it, doesn’t do them any good.”

There has been healing around Arrowhead, though. Pioli and Crennel, each of whom did a magnificent job of providing leadership for a broken locker room, are no longer with the team. But a new leadership emerged in general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid.

Reid, whose son Garrett died of a heroin overdose, understands as well as anyone the process of moving on.

“Life moves on, that’s the reality of it,” Reid said. “I said this when my son died, was that sometimes life throws you some curveballs and you can’t bail. You have to stand in there and you have to swing.

“I thought this organization was phenomenal in how it handled this whole situation. That was a tough thing on everybody. You’re going to be critiqued in a million different ways, but they handled it so well. They kept this team together, you know Romeo (Crennel) and Scotty (Pioli), I mean they kept this team together and probably even brought them closer together, which is a tribute to everybody.”

And the team’s 9-2 start, as well, seems to have put some needed distance between Dec. 1, 2012, and the present. Hali, though, doesn’t believe the team’s winning ways have helped the healing process.

“It’s not about success helping us move on,” Hali said. “That’s not it.”

It’s likely more about time, and the concession we all must make that perhaps, and certainly in the case of Jovan Belcher, we never really truly know someone.

And certainly, as Jamaal Charles said, you simply have to start over.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.