Police have launched a nationwide search for an ex-lawyer who allegedly removed his ankle tracker and murdered his mother, after failing to surrender himself for a 30-year sentence.
Richard Merritt, 44, was sentenced the one-and-a-half decades behind bars and another 15 on probation last month, after he was found guilty of stealing from and exploiting 17 of his clients.
Given a week to ‘get his affairs in order’, Merritt never appeared at the County Cobb jail in Georgia to begin his sentence on February 1.
US Marshalls headed to a Stone Mountain home to detain the disgraced lawyer but found his mother, Shirley Merritt, dead at the bottom of the stairs.
The 77-year-old had been ‘violently killed’ according to police, with a series of stab wounds in her side and a steak knife found next to her body.
Merritt, however, was no where to be found and police have now identified him as the main suspect of the murder having purportedly removed his ankle bracelet and fled the home.
Authorities say Merritt should be considered ‘armed and dangerous’ in an announcement on Thursday and warned the public to keep their distance.
US Marshalls believe he may be fleeing the state in his mother’s 2009 silver Lexus RX350, license plate CBV6004.
‘He probably knows people all over the country, being a lawyer,’ said Frank Lempka of the US Marshals.
‘He could be anywhere. We think he may be anywhere in the country.’
Police say they are investigating a number of Merritt’s associates and contacts in the hope of locating the fugitive.
Lempka also aired concern that Merritt could be seeking revenge on the former clients who pressed charges leading to his conviction.
‘We don’t know what’s going on with him, but he’s very unpredictable.
‘He could hurt or kill someone else at this point,’ he said.
Merritt, a former partner of Merritt & Fletcher LLC, became a lawyer in 2000 but was disbarred in January 2018.
In 2017, he pleaded guilty to stealing $75,000 from a client, and more charges were raised the following year.
He was indicted on a total of 34 criminal charges and stole $420,000 from 17 different clients, the Supreme Court found.
Merritt is said to have spend the stole cash on a series of lavish holidays and even bought a Porsche.
The 44-year-old cited alcohol abuse as the reason for his wrongdoing.
He was issued a 30 year sentence by Judge Robert Flournoy, with 15 to be served in prison.
Merritt was also ordered to pay $454,706 in restitution.
DeKalb Police is asking anyone with information on the whereabouts of Richard Merritt to please call 770-724-7850 or Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS(8477).
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Luke Kenton