COBB COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - A DeKalb County grand jury has indicted disgraced Cobb County lawyer Richard Merritt for the murder of his mother.
In February, Merritt was set to begin a 15-year prison sentence for defrauding clients when he cut off his ankle monitor and vanished.
Police found his mother’s body the day after he disappeared. Someone bludgeoned and stabbed her to death.
Our FOX 5 I-Team covered Merritt’s crime spree for two years and our Dale Russell was in court when Merritt was scheduled to appear for the first time on the murder charge.
Another routine day at the DeKalb County courthouse. Hundreds of lawyers, employees, witnesses, and jurors come and go all morning long. Defendants file into court. Attorneys prepare all kind of cases.
But, on this day, one high profile defendant is a no show.
Richard Merritt: disgraced lawyer, convicted thief, now facing a murder charge, is still on the run. No one was surprised when he did not show.
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.
“I felt betrayed. I felt violated. The lies the deceit. I trusted this person,” said one victim, Beverly Braswell.
In January, a Cobb county judge sentenced Merritt to 15 years in prison for stealing more than $454,706 from 17 different clients. However, the judge gave Merritt 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 him 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.
Merritt disappeared and has not been seen since. His brother thinks he is dangerous.
“I would be wary of him,” said Robert Merritt.
Frank Lempka is a supervisor with the southeast regional fugitive task force. He says despite the fact that there have been 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.
“I am surprised he has evaded capture for so long. You'd think he would slip up or make a mistake,” said Lempka.
In June a DeKalb County grand jury indicted Merritt for the murder and assault of his mother. Merritt was scheduled for court today. No one expected him to appear. He did not.
“I'm afraid he's out of the country since he just vanished without a trace,” said his ex-wife Jenine Minicozzi.
Minicozzi is a veterinarian in Cobb county. She has no idea where her ex-husband may be. She is sure he is drinking heavily, stressed, has lost weight, shaved all facial hair, but still sports a unique cloverleaf tattoo on his right arm.
“I initially thought this was spontaneous. I do think now he's done such a good job of escaping and hiding, this most have been planned,” said Minicozzi.
The US Marshall tell the I-Team they have had no credible sightings of Merritt since February. The now worldwide manhunt for Merritt is still ongoing.