ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - “The last sighting that we know was him was the night he vanished,” says U.S. Marshal Inspector Frank Lempka.
And just like that Richard Merritt was gone. The convicted thief and accused killer walked out of this Bartow county gas station and vanished. Despite a worldwide manhunt, the US Marshall's Fugitive Task Force doesn’t have any solid leads on where he is or even if he is alive.
“I am surprised he has evaded capture for so long. You'd think he would slip up or make a mistake,” said Lempka.
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 sentenced Merritt to 15 years in prison for stealing more than $454,706 from 17 different clients. But, Merit was given two weeks to get his affairs in order.
The day he was supposed to turn himself in, Merritt's brother Robert, says their mother cooked Richard his last family meal. Then with plates still on the table, and pots on the stove, she was brutally murdered. bludgeoned and stabbed to death.
“I would be wary of him. If I saw him just to give him a wide berth. I would just call 911,” said Robert Merritt.
Frank Lempka is a supervisor with the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force. He says despite more than 50 possible sightings of Merritt. Nothing has panned out. Even the Lexus Merritt is suspected of stealing when he ran seems to have vanished.
“The strange thing is that the car hasn't' turned up yet. And he could have switched the license plate on the car,” said Lempka.
Lempka says the task force has put together a profile of the 44-year-old, 5 foot 10 inch, disbarred lawyer, with a colorful tattoo of a green clover leaf topped off with a crown on his right bicep. Agents believe Merritt may revisit places he's lived and visited. Saudi Arabia. Oxford England. Mexico. Mississippi. The Caribbean.
“We know he likes to go to the beach and live a boating or fishing lifestyle. He could be doing that in the US or down in the Caribbean or Mexico,” says Lempka.
In an earlier interview with the I-Team Merritt's ex-wife, Jenine and his brother Robert added their own thoughts on where he may be.
“Bars. Irish bars. He's always liked a good conversation. A good drink,” said Jenine Merritt.
Lempka believes Merritt may have someone helping him, but they don't know for sure. There is much they don't know. But, they do know one thing.
“We will catch Merritt. We're going to track him down and catch him no matter where he is in the world,” said Lempka.
There is a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of Richard Merritt.