XENIA — Arguments were made during a hearing in Judge Michael Buckwalter’s courtroom July 13 regarding whether or not evidence should be suppressed in a case connected to the Yellow Springs double homicide.
Dustin Merrick, 26, pleaded not guilty April 7 to nine charges — two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, two counts of aggravated burglary, felonious assault, tampering with evidence, and obstructing justice — stemming from the Jan. 15 homicides of William “Skip” Brown and Sherri Mendenhall, both whom were shot to death in the village.
Dustin Merrick’s brother, Bret Merrick, was also indicted and pleaded not guilty to eight charges.
Assistant prosecutors David Hayes and Cheri Stout made arguments for the state while defense attorneys Gregory Meyers and William Mooney represented the defendant in the hearing. The motion to suppress evidence was filed by the defense in April.
During the hearing, two witnesses for the state took the stand.
Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s special agent David Hornyak testified to his work investigating the case in assistance to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.
His testimony revealed that bullet casings, spent shotgun shells, and live rounds were found at the murder scene — in the kitchen, on top of the car port, in the hallway and in the bedroom identified as Brown’s.
Hornyak also repeated what has been testified in earlier court proceedings: that, according to numerous people, Dustin Merrick was Brown’s “right-hand man.” He also said he learned from others that Dustin Merrick was terminated by Brown, that Brown owed Dustin Merrick $400, and that there was some type of confrontation and animosity between the two.
But the majority of Hornyak’s testimony centered around the conversation he and Greene County Sheriff’s Detective Kelly Edwards had with Dustin Merrick at his home five days after the bodies were found at the Yellow Springs residence.
According to Hornyak, during the two-hour conversation, Hornyak and Edwards learned that Dustin Merrick was a firearms enthusiast. Allegedly during questioning, Dustin Merrick revealed his weapons and gave consent for the officials to seize a live round and a shotgun in addition to a DNA sample. When asked for consent to seize a 9 mm pistol, though, Dustin Merrick refused, according to present parties. Allegedly, Hornyak seized the pistol anyway.
Hornyak said the decision to seize the weapon was related to many factors, including the fact that that pistol could hold up to 13, potentially 14 rounds, and that there were only nine in it when it was confiscated. According to Hornyak, four matching casings were found at the murder scene.
Hornyak said he asked Dustin Merrick how many rounds were in the gun, and then revealed that it was not full — that there were only nine.
When questioned, Edwards described Dustin Merrick’s demeanor at that moment.
“His face flushed dark red and he was wringing his hands,” she said.
Throughout the proceedings, Meyers brought up Dustin Merrick’s constitutional right of the fourth amendment.
“You or Detective Edwards could have gotten a search warrant,” Meyers said to Hornyak, pointing out that Dustin Merrick’s Xenia residence was less than five miles from the courthouse and that it was a weekday afternoon.
The case continues as Buckwalter decides whether or not evidence in question will be suppressed.
According to court records, a final pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 29 and a jury trial is scheduled to begin Monday, Nov. 6.
The indictments carry firearm and capital specifications, which means the defendants could face the death penalty if convicted.
The Merricks are currently being held in the Greene County Jail. The court continues the existing $5 million bond for Dustin Merrick.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.
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