Tales of overly protective mothers going to extreme lengths to shield their children from harm are frequently recounted. However, it’s rare when such protective instincts culminate in a fatal outcome. In the episode ‘Vengeance: Killer Neighbors: Murderous Moms,’ a particularly harrowing incident is highlighted. Vanessa McMorick was fatally stabbed amidst a tumultuous altercation between her family and the family of her sister’s neighbor, Ashley Berger. Amid the chaos, both factions pointed fingers at each other, complicating the police investigation. The challenge lay in discerning whether Berger’s actions were rooted in self-defense or if the incident was a premeditated assault.
How Did Vanessa McMorick Die?
Vanessa McMorick was a resident of Euclid, Cleveland, Ohio. Known for her warmth and affection, she played a vital role as the familial linchpin, holding her family together. Vanessa and her sister, Christina Barkley, shared a unique bond, especially during their simultaneous pregnancies — Vanessa’s first and Christina’s fifth. The experience brought the sisters even closer, leading Vanessa to regularly visit Christina’s home in Crystal Avenue to contribute to the upbringing of her child alongside the cousins and extended family. On April 27, 2005, a neighbor of Christina’s placed a call to 911, reporting a major altercation between two families in the neighborhood.
The chaotic scene spilled out onto the streets, with numerous people involved in the confrontation. As the police were en route, another call came in, this time indicating that someone had been stabbed at the same location. Upon their arrival, they discovered Christina seated on the pavement, cradling Vanessa in her arms. It became apparent that Vanessa had been stabbed and was unconscious, rapidly losing blood. Additionally, Christina had sustained a stab wound to her shoulder and required medical attention. Vanessa passed away in the hospital due to a cut that had damaged her pulmonary artery, and she was stabbed seven times.
Who Killed Vanessa McMorick?
Upon the police’s arrival, members of Vanessa’s family immediately pointed accusatory fingers at Berger, claiming she was the one responsible for stabbing both Vanessa and Christina. Upon entering the house, the police found Berger near a sink with a knife nearby. However, the knife had been washed clean, rendering it devoid of any forensic evidence. Berger was taken into custody for questioning, and all individuals involved were brought in for interrogation. Each person had the opportunity to provide their account of the events leading up to the attack.
Christina informed the police that Ashley and her family had moved into the neighboring house in June 2004, and initially, she was pleased to have a family with children around the same age. However, problems arose when one of Berger’s sons, Daionte, expressed romantic interest in Christina’s 12-year-old daughter, Diamond Barkley, who declined his advances. Subsequently, Berger’s children began bullying Christina’s kids, targeting them on the shared school bus and also within the school premises. Despite bringing the matter to the attention of the school, no effective resolution or assistance was provided to address the ongoing issues.
Christina additionally informed the police that in February 2005, she had visited Berger’s residence to address the issue of bullying. Upon arrival, she encountered Berger’s partner, Matt, at the front of the house and engaged in conversation with him. According to Christina, Berger observed this interaction and confronted her, accusing her of flirting with her partner. Amid the confrontation, Berger allegedly punched Christina while she held her 2-year-old baby in her arms, resulting in Christina dropping the child. The police were summoned, but despite their intervention, the two families were unable to reach a resolution or agreement.
Christina asserted that on April 27, she and Vanessa had gone out to run errands for Diamond’s upcoming birthday, just three days away. She added that due to ongoing harassment from Berger’s children, Christina had to enlist the help of her cousins to ensure her kids safely reached the bus stop. Upon returning, Christina noticed a crowd gathered outside Berger’s house, alleging that one of Christina’s sons had attacked Daionte, sparking a confrontation between the two families. In the chaos that ensued, Christina remained unaware of how or when she and her sister were stabbed during the altercation.
During the police questioning, when informed that 20-year-old Vanessa had succumbed to her injuries, Berger unexpectedly exclaimed that she had not intended for that outcome. The police interpreted this statement as a potential admission of guilt. In her defense, Berger contended that it was Christina, her sister, and their children who had been harassing her family, and she asserted that her actions were a result of self-defense. According to Berger, the confrontation was triggered by the sisters hurling verbal abuses at her parents on the day of the incident.
Where is Ashley Berger Now?
On June 2, 2005, Berger was formally indicted on charges of murder and four counts of felonious assault. Given that Berger was five months pregnant with her fourth child, the trial commenced in November after she gave birth in August of that year. During the trial, Berger’s defense argued that it was Christina and her sisters who had displayed hostility towards Berger, even threatening to kick the baby out of her. Fearing for her child’s safety and her well-being, Berger asserted that she had acted in self-defense. However, the prosecutors contended that Berger had gone into her house to retrieve a knife, and in doing so, had ample time to deliberate on her actions, negating the possibility of it being a spontaneous act of self-defense.
On November 21, 2005, 32-year-old Berger was convicted of manslaughter and assault charges, with the acknowledgment that the crime occurred in a fit of passion. She received a 5-year sentence. According to the latest available information, she was released from prison on September 26, 2010, and placed on supervision for 5 years, during which she reported from Cleveland. Since then, there have been no recent updates on Berger’s life, except for the fact that she left the house in Crystal Avenue, Euclid, and moved to a different location to stay away from the spotlight.