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Former attorney gets life in prison for stabbing his mother to death at her Stone Mountain home

Crime and public safety DeKalb County Stone Mountain

Former attorney gets life in prison for stabbing his mother to death at her Stone Mountain home

A map of DeKalb County, GA. Image obtained via Google Maps

DeKalb County, GA — A former attorney who stole money from clients has been sentenced to life in prison for stabbing his mother to death, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Richard Merritt, 49, was found guilty on charges of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of a felony, a press release from the DA’s office says. The stabbing occurred in 2019.

Merritt beat and stabbed his mother to death at her Stone Mountain home. His mother, Shirley Merritt, was 77 years old.

“At the time of the fatal incident on February 1, 2019, Defendant Merritt was living at his mother’s home in Stone Mountain,” the press release from the DA’s Office says. “He’d lost his Bar license after stealing from clients and being indicted in Cobb County on 34 theft-related felony charges. When Merritt entered a guilty plea in Cobb County on January 18, 2019, he was sentenced to 30 years to serve 15 years in custody, and ordered to wear an ankle monitor until turning himself in at the Cobb County Jail at 5 p.m. on February 1.”

An out-of-state resident was supposed to visit Shirley and drive her son to jail on Feb. 1, but the relative received an “uncharacteristic text” from Shirley discouraging that visit.

“The Defendant’s ankle monitor shows he was at the home on February 1 from 9:38 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., when he left the house,” the press release from the DA’s Office says. “He traveled on 285 West to 75 North, passed the Cobb County Jail, and continued north. At 4:12 p.m. Merritt pulled off the highway and severed his ankle monitor. An employee of the monitoring company tracking the Defendant’s GPS coordinates noticed the discrepancy. Only 14 minutes after the alert, the ankle monitor was found in a trash can at a truck stop. The Cobb District Attorney’s office and Sheriff’s Department were dispatched, but the Defendant had already fled.”

A family member discovered Shirley’s body. She had been stabbed multiple times.

Following a nationwide manhunt that lasted eight months, Merritt was arrested in Nashville, Tenn. by Vanderbilt University Police who found Shirley’s vehicle with a tag stolen from another vehicle. Merritt had a fake Louisiana license and had been living out of his car and with a girlfriend he’d met on a dating app.

“During trial, Defendant Merritt testified that two unknown men with guns had shown up at the home on the day he was to turn himself in, murdered his mother in front of him, threatened the rest of his family, then allowed him to leave,” the press release from the DA’s Office says. “The story had not been communicated to law enforcement until his testimony. Following his conviction, Defendant Merritt was immediately sentenced to a term of life in prison without parole plus five years to run consecutively by DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson who presided over the trial.”

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