A disbarred Georgia attorney facing 30 years behind bars following his conviction for severe crimes such as theft and elder exploitation was left free for two weeks prior to his scheduled sentencing last month. This time was meant to allow him to get his affairs in order, but instead he allegedly removed his court-ordered ankle monitor, murdered his mother and went on the run.
At the time of the incident, the U.S. Marshals Service issued an alert regarding 44-year-old Richard V. Merritt, who was considered armed and dangerous. Authorities suspected he had fled the area in a 2009 silver Lexus RX350 missing from his mother’s home in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Shirley Vinson Merritt, 77, was found “violently killed,’ with her son the prime suspect in her slaying.
Merritt splashed hundreds of thousands on “lavish vacations and a Porsche” by using stolen funds from 2014-2017. He stole from clients after lying to them, reassuring these individuals that he was pursuing their legal claims even after he’d forged their signatures on settlement checks for lawsuits. He pocketed the money himself and went on spending sprees.
On January 18, Merritt pleaded guilty in Cobb County Superior Court to multiple counts of theft, forgery and elder exploitation. A Judge handed him a 30-year sentence, with 15 years in prison and the rest on probation. He was also ordered to pay $454,706 in restitution to his 17 innocent victims.
Merritt’s request for time to “get his affairs in order” before going back behind bars was granted, and he was given a strict deadline of 5 p.m. on Feb. 1 to turn himself in. Authorities planned to keep an eye on his movement’s in the meantime with the ankle monitor.
If Merritt did not show up to his scheduled sentencing, his probation would be revoked and he’d be ordered to serve the full 30 years in prison.
This came nearly a year after he gave up his bar license in January 2018. At the time of his sentencing, Meritt’s attorney David Willingham, said “My client did not set out in his legal career with evil intentions or with a plan to become a thief, liar and deceiver,” reports Law.com. “He developed into that person slowly over time and under the pressure, stress and anxiety associated with practicing law — as well as an addiction to alcohol.”
Several of his devastated victims testified against him, with some of the testimony including harsh statements and descriptions like “a professional con man” and “a mendacious scoundrel,” according to the district attorney’s office.