A manhunt is underway for a lawyer who had been scheduled to report to prison to begin a 30-year sentence, but instead allegedly murdered his own mother before chopping off his ankle bracelet and stealing her car.
Richard Merritt, 44, is a disbarred attorney who was supposed to surrender Feb. 1 in Cobb County, Georgia, “where he had been convicted of stealing money from clients and elder abuse,” according to a U.S Marshals press release.
The next day “Merritt's elderly mother was found dead, having been violently killed,” according to the authorities. She had been stabbed to death, according to WSB-TV in Atlanta, and Merritt is wanted for her murder. Merritt’s vehicle was found at DeKalb County home but there was no sign of him. He’s believed to have taken off with his dead mom’s car. It's not clear how he cut off his ankle monitor.
On Saturday, the U.S. Marshals released an image of Merritt at a gas station around the time he fled.
In February 2018, Merritt pleaded guilty to stealing $75,000 from a client’s settlement the previous year, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Then, three weeks ago, he pleaded guilty to settling a civil case without letting his clients know and pocketing the money himself.
Now, law enforcement appears to have no idea where he is.
"He probably knows people all over the country, being a lawyer. He could be anywhere. We think he may be anywhere in the country," U.S. Mashal Frank Lempka told WSB-TV.
His own lawyer appears to be in shock over the murder of Merritt's mom.
"For an entire year, my client was out on bail. ... Not once did he hint or suggest in any way that he would run from justice, much less show any signs that he was capable of such heinous violence towards of all people his mother. Days before he was to turn himself in and begin serving his sentence, Mr. Merritt sounded upbeat and optimistic about his chances of parole after serving just five years. I simply cannot believe this has happened. My continued thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Merritt family," attorney David Willingham said in a statement cited by WSB-TV.
The vehicle that Merritt allegedly stole from his mom after killing her is a 2009 silver Lexus RX350, with a Georgia tag CBV 6004.
“He may have shaved his head or otherwise changed his appearance, and should be considered armed and dangerous,” the U.S. Marshals wrote. “Do not try to engage him. If you see Merritt, please contact law enforcement immediately.”
There is also $5,000 reward for information that leads to his arrest.
Anyone with information is asked to call DeKalb police at 770-724-7850 or the U.S. Marshals at 1-877-Wanted-2 (1-877-926-8332). Tips can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To remain anonymous and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, tipsters can contact Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, text information to 274637 or visit the Crime Stoppers website.
[Photo: U.S. Marshals]
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