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Merrick brothers indicted— Death sentence a possibility

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A Greene County Grand Jury has returned indictments of aggravated murder, murder, aggravated burglary, felonious assault and tampering with evidence against the two brothers charged with the killings of two local residents on Jan. 15. Dustin Merrick, 26, and Bret Merrick, 24, were each indicted for the shootings of William “Skip” Brown and Sherri Mendenhall on East Enon Road on the western edge of the village. The indictments carry death penalty specifications, which means a trial jury could sentence one or both to the death penalty.

The situation is unusual in that the case involves two defendants who could be sentenced to death, according to Beavercreek attorney Thomas Kollin, who until recently represented Dustin Merrick. However, due to the death penality specifications, the family can no longer afford a private attorney for both men, Kollin said, and are seeking Ohio public defenders.

“It’s big,” Kollin said in an interview this week. “I can’t remember the last time we had two with death specifications.”

Cases in which the death penalty is possible include those in which a muder is premeditated; in which more than one person is killed; in which a murder is committed during the act of another felony; and in which a person is alleged to have killed in order to avoid detection of a crime, among other criteria, according to Greene County Prosecutor Stephen Haller last week. 

The Prosecutor’s Office announced the indictments last Thursday, March 30. Both defendants will be arraigned on Friday, April 7, at 1 p.m. in the Greene County Court of Common Pleas. Bond for both defendants has been set at $5 million.

When the brothers were initially charged with the crimes, only Dustin Merrick was charged with aggravated murder, while Bret Merrick was charged with accessory to aggravated murder, along with aggravated burglary. Bret Merrick had admitted to police that he and his brother had gone to Brown’s residence the night of the crime and that both were armed.

However, both brothers now have identical aggravated murder, murder and robbery charges.

“Now we have more information,” Prosecutor Haller said regarding the new charges against Bret Merrick. 

However, he declined to be specific.

“I can’t say anything about the evidence,” Haller said. “All I can say is that the grand jury found there’s sufficient evidence to add the death penalty specification.”

Local police were called to the scene of the East Enon Road apartment homes of Brown and Mendenhall on Sunday, Jan. 15, when a jogger running by saw a woman face down in the driveway. The bodies of Mendenhall, a close friend and next-door neighbor of Brown, and Brown, who owned the local Legendary Roofing company, were found on the premises. Both had been shot. Because the shootings took place outside Village limits, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department investigated the crime, along with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, or BCI, of the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

The brothers, who live in Xenia, were arrested about two weeks later. Dustin Merrick had been a “person of interest” in the crime, and was a former employee of Skip Brown. At his preliminary hearing, he described himself as Brown’s “right hand man,” and said he had worked on several roofing projects in Yellow Springs, including at the Yellow Springs News.

The brothers are the stepsons of Skip Brown’s brother, David Brown. They are the sons of Bobbi Brown, David Brown’s wife.

After the brothers were arrested, a gun recovered at Dustin Merrick’s residence was found to match the rounds of ammunition found at the crime scene.

According to Attorney Kollin this week, the process of finding attorneys for the brothers will be complicated due to the death penalty specifications. The state requires that each defendant be represented by two attorneys and that each attorney must have experience in a death-penalty case. Because the family cannot afford the cost of private attorneys, the state must appoint four (two each) defending attorneys for the brothers, likely through the Ohio Public Defender office in Columbus. On Monday of this week, the office stated that the appointments have not yet been made.

The state pays a defending attorney $75,000 for a death-penalty case, and the cost would be far higher for a private attorney.

“It’s tons and tons of time,” Kollin said, stating that usually an attorney puts all other work aside to work on the case.

According to Kollin, Dustin Merrick is looking forward to having a jury trial.

At the arraignment, the trial could be set for as early as April, according to Haller, although that would simply be the beginning of the process, and the date will likely be postponed due to the defense attorneys’ request for continuances.

Assistant Greene County Prosecutors David Hayes and Cheri Stout have been assigned to prosecute the Merrick brothers, according to Haller.

“We’re ready to try the case,” he said.

Judge Stephen Wolaver has been assigned to the case of State v. Bret Merrick and Judge Michael Buckwalter has been assigned the case of State v. Dustin Merrick.

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