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Woman accused of killing her cousin with a hammer inside a Peoria home

Officers took 29-year-old Brianna Zerth into custody on Wednesday afternoon.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 3:37 PM MST|Updated: May. 6, 2022 at 8:34 PM MST
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PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Police have arrested a woman accused of killing one of her family members inside a home in Peoria. Officers took 29-year-old Brianna Zerth into custody on Wednesday afternoon. Just after 12 p.m., Peoria police responded to a medical call near 111th and Olive avenues. When officers arrived, they found a 33-year-old man dead inside Zerth’s home.

According to court documents, Zerth and the man, who was identified as her cousin, had been drinking alcohol the night before. Zerth’s cousin had been staying at the home for about three weeks after Zerth’s mother died. Zerth reportedly told detectives that Tuesday night, she and her cousin were drinking whiskey, and at one point, she climbed up a ladder to lay on her roof and think about her mother. Zerth then jumped off the roof and into her backyard swimming pool. Zerth told investigators her cousin came outside and began arguing with her and mentioned something about her 6-year-old daughter.

Zerth says she went inside and checked on her daughter, and then she and her cousin began fighting throughout the house but told police the incident was “blurry.” When Zerth woke up Wednesday morning, she said she found her cousin face down on the floor covered in blood. She told police she covered her cousin with a jacket and cleaned up a bit by trying to vacuum up the blood and picked up glass because she was worried about her daughter stepping on it. Zerth reportedly then called the police, saying her cousin was “stiff and cold to the touch.”

Police paperwork states that when officers arrived, Zerth was sitting on her living room couch with her daughter. One officer stayed with Zerth, while the other went to the master bedroom and found Zerth’s cousin. The officer noted that Zerth’s cousin had several injuries to his back, which were puncture wounds from the claw of a hammer. The officer found the hammer near the man’s body. The officers got Zerth’s daughter out of the home, and while the 6-year-old was being watched by one of the department’s victim advocates, she reportedly made a statement that “mommy killed him.” Court documents state that when the victim advocate asked who “he” was, the daughter said Zerth’s cousin’s name.

Zerth was arrested and interviewed by detectives. After being read her Miranda rights, Zerth said she was “sorry” and that she “loved her cousin.” Police said during the interview, Zerth admitted to swinging the hammer at her cousin, which happened near the end of the fight. Detectives say Zerth didn’t want to speak any more about what happened because she was having a hard time processing everything. Zerth was booked on charges of second-degree murder, tampering with evidence, and aggravated assault. The investigation is ongoing.

Zerth’s neighbor Rodney Johnson said that she had a history of abusing drugs and alcohol, remembering an incident that happened around a year ago. “She had all her clothes off, and she was running through the neighborhood,” he said. Regarding the incident, Johnson said, “It surprised me in this neighborhood, but it don’t surprise me that it happened.”

Another neighbor, Jerome Redd, said, “She’s very cordial. She’ll say howdy neighbor, things of that nature. Yeah, never suspected something like that.”

Neighbors said the 6-year-old appeared to be well cared for.