DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - A FOX 5 I-Team Exclusive.
It is the murder and manhunt the entire nation is talking about.
A disbarred Cobb County attorney is on the run. Suspected of murdering his mother hours before he was set to begin a 15-year sentence for stealing his client's money.
FOX 5 Senior I-Team Reporter Dale Russell has tracked Merritt's crime spree for two years and sits down in an exclusive one on one interview with Merritt's brother.
Robert Merritt is Richard Merritt’s older brother. Today, he buried the mother his brother is suspected of killing. He is, understandably, angry, confused, and shocked. And he wants his brother to listen to what he has to say.
“I'm not going to sit by silently, why he terrorizes his family and these victims,” said Robert Merritt.
Robert Merritt sat in the living room of the home where his mother was murdered. And he had a message for the prime suspect: his younger brother Richard. The man now at the center of a nationwide manhunt.
“You need to turn yourself in. You need to end this. You need to man up and you need to account for everything you've done,” said Merritt.
For two years, the FOX 5 I-Team investigated how more than a dozen victims said well-known Cobb county attorney Richard Merritt stole their settlement checks after handling their personal injury lawsuits.
In January, a Cobb County judge sentence Merritt to 15 years in prison for stealing more than $454,706 from 17 different clients. But, Meritt was given two weeks to get his affairs in order. Despite pleas from his victims to lock him up immediately.
“He's a con man. He's a professional criminal. If you let him out on the streets, he's just going to do it again,” testified crime victim Tina Sailer.
Richard Merritt’s mother Shirley often came to court to support her son. She put up the money for his $440,000 bond. She let him live with her after his arrest. Robert says his mother adored her youngest son.
“She was cooking him her favorite meal on the day he was to surrender, “ said Robert Merritt.
Robert Merritt gave the FOX 5 I-team an exclusive account of the final hours before his mother’s murder.
When he entered his mother's home after her murder, he found place setting for two, spaghetti noodles and his mother's favorite red sauce on the stove, bread slathered with garlic butter, and ready to be toasted.
“It looked like they were going to have a nice meal together,” said Merritt.
But something happened while the plates still sat untouched on the table. Just steps away from the kitchen, in the basement, at the bottom of a stairwell, his mother was badly beaten and stabbed to death. Her body was found the next day by a relative.
“I was dumbfounded. I was totally shocked. And totally, it was unfathomable. I felt like I opened up from a bad dream.
Robert Merritt doesn't understand what went wrong with a brother who had never shown any signs of violence growing up.
“I don’t know if they got into an argument. I don’t know if he said something. And, I don’t, I just can’t conceive of what could have created the scene that occurred here,” said Robert Merritt.
Robert Merritt says his brother shaved his head in a bathroom sink, grabbed a handful of clothes from his bedroom, and took off in his mother's silver Lexus.
Richard Merritt’s was set to report to prison at 5 p.m. We know Merritt headed northwest. Right past the Cobb County Jail. A half hour before he was to turn himself in, he was captured by this truck stop surveillance camera in Cartersville. He had cut off his ankle monitor nearby.
He was now a murder suspect on the run.
“I don't understand the end game here. I don't understand how this ends positively. I can't comprehend Dale. I don't get it. And, yes I'm angry. Because he’s hurting people. He hurt the one person who held him up and helped him the most. Who time after time after time stood by him,” said Robert Merritt.
Robert Merritt, a CDC scientist was 9 years older than his brother. He admires the job his parents did raising two boys but admits he's been estranged from his both and mother for more than 10 years. His father died years ago.
He was devastated when he watched the FOX 5 stories of his brother's victims and felt terrible for the people. Now, he has lost his mother, and waits for the someone, somewhere to find his brother. And, he wants his brother to know he will not be silenced.
“This is not going to end well if you continue to run. You need to pay for the crimes you committed. For all those individuals you pled guilty to and now for allegedly brutally murdering our mother.
(You ever going to be able to forgive him?)
I don't know. The jury's out on that. I have to be honest. There is a lot of anger, pain and hurt.