Key evidence challenged in Greene County capital murder case

Two Greene County common pleas judges must decide whether critical evidence in a potential death penalty case will be allowed in trial.

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Motions to suppress evidence have been filed by the defense attorneys for Dustin and Bret Merrick, two brothers who stand charged with murder in the Jan. 15 fatal shootings of their neighbors near Yellow Springs — 44-year-old William “Skip” Brown and 63-year-old Sherri Mendenhall. 

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The Merrick brothers are being tried separately and could face the death penalty if convicted. Bond was set at $5 million for each defendant as they are being held in the Greene County Jail on suspicion of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and other charges. 

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Judge Michael Buckwalter presided over a motion to suppress hearing in 26-year-old Dustin Merrick’s case last week. in which the investigators were called to the stand to testify.  

According to the motion filed by Dustin’s attorney Gregory Meyers, Dustin Merrick did not consent to his 9 mm handgun being seized by detectives during an interview at his home Jan. 20.

Dustin allowed the officers to see and handle the gun, but he “expressly and clearly denied consent” for it to be seized, but the officers cited “exigent circumstances” and seized the gun anyway, according to the defendant’s motion to suppress.  

“Law enforcement officials cannot merely utter ‘exigent circumstances’ to magically make their constitutional duties vanish. The state bears a heavy burden to prove with specific, articulable facts that the circumstance in this case constitutionally justified a warrantless seizure,” the defendant’s motion to suppress reads.

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In the case against Bret Merrick, 24, Judge Stephen Wolaver must decide whether potentially incriminating statements the defendant made during a Jan. 24 police interrogation are admissible. 

The alleged statements were made after Bret Merrick was picked up by detectives at his place of work and questioned by Greene County officers as well as an agent from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, according to the motion to suppress filed by attorney Dennis Lieberman. 

Lieberman asserts in the motion that Merrick was subjected to “six hours of custodial interrogation.” 

“… any incriminating statements of defendant were involuntary and made without properly being advised of his constitutional rights,” Bret Merrick’s motion to suppress reads. 

A date has not been scheduled for Buckwalter’s ruling. A motion to suppress hearing is scheduled in September in Bret Merrick’s case. 

The prosecutor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on this story.