The multi-state manhunt for former Smyrna attorney Richard Merritt continues while family members are in hiding from the suspected killer.
Merritt pleaded guilty last month to theft, forgery and elder-exploitation charges, admitting to settling clients’ lawsuits without telling them and keeping their checks for himself.
Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert Flournoy III sentenced Merritt to 30 years with 15 to serve in prison and the rest on probation, and ordered to pay $454,706 in restitution.
Flournoy also gave Merritt two weeks to get his affairs in order before reporting to prison, but investigators believe he instead stabbed his mother to death, removed his tracking ankle monitor and fled in his mother’s car. 77-year-old Shirley Merritt was found dead in her Stone Mountain home Feb. 2.
Merritt’s ex-wife, Jenine Merritt, told FOX 5’s senior reporter Dale Russell she is staying in an undisclosed location while her ex-husband is on the loose.
“He’s a deceitful, immoral person, but I never thought he would kill someone,” she said. “The kids and I are scared, and now that we know what he’s capable of, we are afraid that he’s going to turn up.”
Jenine Merritt told Russell her now-ex had called her the night before he was to begin his prison sentence and told her he refused to let anybody else have her.
Jenine Merritt told the TV station her former husband has connections with the Florida panhandle, New Orleans and New York. She said he loves fishing and Irish pubs and that she doubts he’ll be able to keep in hiding for long.
“I think he’s such a narcissist and he has to have an audience. I don’t think he can keep to himself forever. I think he’s going to start going out in public and chit-chatting with people and getting cocky,” she said.
Richard Merritt was last seen driving a silver 2009 Lexus RX350 with Georgia tag CBV 6004. Authorities believe he may have shaved his head or otherwise changed his appearance.
Jenine Merritt said he can grow back his fine, sandy brown hair in a month or so, and grow a goatee in two weeks, though he can’t grow a beard.
The U.S. Marshals said Merritt should be considered armed and dangerous, and his brother Robert Merritt agrees.
“I would be wary if I saw him, just to give him a wide berth,” he told FOX 5. “Just call 911.”
For more information, contact the marshals’ Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force at 770-508-2500. Tip information may also be called in to the U.S. Marshals at 1-877-Wanted-2 (1-877-926-8332) or email email@example.com. Investigators are offering a $5,000 reward for information on Merritt.