Man who shot his pregnant sister, her husband at Maple Heights picnic gets life sentence (2024)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Jason Iverson ended three lives when he fatally shot his pregnant sister and her husband at a Labor Day picnic.

He will now spend the rest of his behind bars.

Iverson was armed with a semi-automatic pistol and an irrational rage over his children choosing to stay with his sister instead of him when he gunned down Mercedes Iverson, who was 7-months pregnant, and Trea “Norbert” Carter III in the Sept. 4 attack in Stafford Park in Maple Heights. The bullet that killed his sister first struck his 13-year-old son.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Rick Bell sentenced Iverson, 29, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“It was clear just how specific your actions were that day,” Bell said.

Iverson pleaded guilty March 13 to three counts of aggravated murder, one each for his sister, her husband and his unborn niece, who was going to be named Ava. He also pleaded guilty to felonious assault because he shot his son, who survived.

“I destroyed a whole family that day,” Iverson said before learning his sentence. “I deserve whatever punishment is coming toward me.”

Iverson faced a minimum sentence of life in prison with his first chance at parole after he served 23 years in prison.

Bell said that Iverson’s words were heartfelt but did not answer the single question that everyone in the victims’ families wanted to know: Why did he do it?

“You leave people with a very difficult chore, perhaps for the rest of their lives,” Bell said.

Multiple family members described Carter as a beacon of strength and motivation in their lives. He was a jokester and loved making those around him laugh. And he was elated to become the father of a baby girl.

Jason Iverson’s son said that he lives with guilt because the bullet that struck his aunt was meant for him.

The boy, who is now 14, cried as he buried his head in his arms folded before him on a courtroom lectern.

“I can’t sit here and hate you for the rest of my life. That’s too much to weigh upon myself,” he said to his father, who was crying in handcuffs at a table behind him. “But I also know I can’t sit here and forgive you.”

The Plain Dealer and does not name youths who are victims of crimes.

Prosecutors said the attack was the culmination of a summerlong dispute between the siblings that began in May 2023. Iverson’s son called his aunt and said Iverson was abusive, and the children did not feel safe. Mercedes Iverson went to the house, picked the children up and drove them to her house in Parma.

Jason Iverson ultimately called Parma police and asked them to retrieve his children, prosecutors said. Officers called the children’s mother, who said she wanted them to remain with Mercedes Iverson.

The fatal attack came as the children were with Iverson’s mother, Cynthia Ivey, at a picnic at Stafford Park. Jason Iverson showed up unexpectedly and began arguing with his mother. Mercedes Iverson and Carter got there a short time later to drop something off for Ivey, and Jason Iverson immediately began trying to fight Carter.

Ivey took Jason Iverson’s two younger children into her car, and Mercedes Iverson, Carter and the 13-year-old boy got into their car.

Jason Iverson stood in front of his sister’s car and blocked her from leaving. Video from the park showed Iverson pounding on the car’s hood. Mercedes Iverson then sped around him and tried to drive out of the park, but Iverson eventually caught up with them.

He raised his gun and pulled the trigger, sending a bullet smashing through the car’s back window. The bullet grazed the boy’s upper lip on its way into the back of Mercedes Iverson’s neck. She and her unborn child were pronounced dead.

Carter bailed from the car and ran to a bathroom stall, seeking shelter. Children played in two inflatable bounce houses about 50 feet from the bathroom’s door.

Surveillance video from the park captured Iverson running into the bathroom after Carter with a gun in his hand. Iverson shot Carter a dozen times in the chest and head. Iverson then walked out of the bathroom and out of the park. Police arrested him a short distance from the park.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Kristin Karkutt said that it’s possible that Carter, who had just witnessed his brother-in-law obliterate his family and his future, drew Iverson into the bathroom to keep him from killing random bystanders in the park.

“While he may not have any future familial legacy, maybe this will be his legacy,” Karkutt said. “He died saving people.”

Bell, who was a supervisor in the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office before he became a judge, said this case was unlike any he had seen in his decades in the Justice Center.

“It’s very difficult to imagine the amount of harm that was caused to everyone, yourself included,” Bell said.

The harm was evident in the words and voices of the family members who spoke Wednesday.

Ivey sobbed as she described losing her daughter, her son-in-law and what would have been her sixth grandchild to the hands of her son.

“This is not what I envisioned for my kids,” Ivey said. “And it hurts.”

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Man who shot his pregnant sister, her husband at Maple Heights picnic gets life sentence (2024)
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