Shirley Merritt Murder: Where is Richard Merritt Now?

Image Credit: Jenine Merritt

One morning in February 2019, the community of DeKalb County in Georgia was shocked to learn that Shirley Merritt lost her life to a brutal attack at her abode. The investigation into her murder unfurled a web of shocking truths. The killer, who was already guilty of stealing a huge sum of money from many individuals, went on the lam for months before being captured and put away in prison for good.

The episode of ‘American Monster: Success at Any Cost’ covers the case by presenting the details of the tragic murder, exploring the complexities of the ensuing investigation, and unveiling the identity of the perpetrator of such a heinous act. It also features straightforward conversations with the officers, investigators, and experts, as well as the family members and other loved ones of Shirley Merritt, who saw to it that justice was served.

How Did Shirley Merritt Die?

Born on September 27, 1941, Shirley Vinson Merritt was a longtime resident of the city of Stone Mountain in DeKalb County, Georgia. For nearly two decades, she had been living a life without her husband, Robert Kenneth Merritt, who passed away on November 27, 2000, at the age of 62. A retired Colonel in the United States Air Force, the most senior field-grade military officer rank, the Merritt family patriarch was put to rest in Sandy Springs, Fulton County. Despite losing her better half at the turn of the century, Shirley was optimistic about life as she had her and Robert’s children — two sons, Richard and Robert Merritt, II — beside her.

Image Credit: Fox 5

The world of the 77-year-old revolved around her kids and grandchildren, whom she doted upon. Shirley was a respected member of the community and greeted everyone with her bright eyes and warm smile. On the professional front, she was a pediatric clinical care provider and had served in the Patient and Family Services department at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for a long time. At the time of the incident, her son Richard was living with her at the 1500 block of Planters Row in Tucker, near Stone Mountain. On February 2, 2019, the police received a call from the area in relation to the death of a person. When they arrived at the location around 9:30 am, the officers found Shirley at the staircase landing of her house, brutally stabbed to death.

The 77-year-old grandmother had major stab wounds on one part of her body. A steak knife or knife handle that was lying near her was determined to be the murder weapon. As they walked around the house, the officers spotted plates served on the table and cookware sitting on the gas stove, indicating that she was preparing a scrumptious meal for her loved ones just a while before someone took away the beautiful soul from the world. While looking for evidence to nab the killer, the authorities realized that Shirley’s brown 2009 Lexus RX350 was missing from its place. Since there were no signs of forced entry, in their initial report, the authorities surmised the murder of Shirley Merritt to be an “isolated, domestic-related incident.”

Who Killed Shirley Merritt?

As the police found Richard Merritt’s car on Shirley Merritt’s property instead of her own, the son of the 77-year-old woman became the prime suspect in the murder case. Richard, a lawyer who had pleaded guilty to theft, forgery, and elder exploitation charges for deceiving 17 of his former clients in January 2019, was facing a 30-year prison sentence, which included 15 years behind bars and the rest on probation and was ordered to pay $454,706 in restitution. Between 2014 and 2017, he stole funds from his clients by saying that he was pursuing their legal claims even though he had settled them by forging their signatures while keeping the money for himself.

The court granted him a couple of weeks to get his affairs in order, and he was supposed to report to the Cobb County Jail on February 1, 2019. However, the 44-year-old had other plans in his mind as he got out of his court-ordered ankle monitor, murdered his mother, Shirley Merritt, and disappeared to get away from his looming prison time. A day later, on February 2, 2019, his mother was found dead in her Planters Row home near Stone Mountain, where the killer had been living with her. When his wife filed for divorce just four days after his arrest, it was his mother who stood by him.

Shirley went as far as taking a second mortgage on her home to help him post-bond and gave him space to live under her roof in DeKalb County.  In return, he killed her and took off in her SUV, evading the investigators for about eight months. He managed to do so by changing his identity, working a new job, and leading a different life just a state over. Finally, in September 2019, he was caught and arrested by the police in Nashville, Tennessee.

Where is Richard Merritt Now?

The trial of Richard Merritt for the murder of Shirley Merritt commenced in May 2023, wherein the prosecutors and defense put forward their respective arguments in front of the jury. When given a chance to speak in his defense, Richard claimed that it was two armed men who murdered his mother in front of him. According to him, they barged into the home strapped up and one of them proceeded to bludgeon Shirley with a dumbbell.

As per Richard’s claims, the other man then came back with a kitchen knife and proceeded to stab her repeatedly. However, the prosecutors questioned why he didn’t report the same to his family or the authorities at the time instead of skipping state and staying on the run. After a short trial, the disgraced attorney was found guilty of all charges against him, including malice murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault.

Richard received a life imprisonment sentence without the possibility of parole. Following the verdict, he took the stand and confessed, “I was raised right by two beautiful people and I had a beautiful wife and children. The world was our oyster, and I blew it over the worst drug there is: the green money. I made a lot of bad choices and decisions.” Currently, he is serving his sentence behind bars at Macon State Prison at 2728 GA-49 in Oglethorpe, Georgia, where he will spend the rest of his life.

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