Disgraced Cobb attorney gets life in mother’s stabbing death
A former Cobb County attorney, Richard Merritt, was convicted last week of killing his mother in 2019.
Prosecutors said he fatally stabbed his mother, 77-year-old Shirley Merritt, at her DeKalb County home.
After 90 minutes of deliberations, the jury returned to the courtroom with a verdict, finding Merritt guilty of murder, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime. The judge sentenced Merritt to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus five years.
The brutal attack on his mother, Shirley Merritt, occurred Feb. 1, 2019. After pleading guilty to theft and elder abuse in a separate case in Cobb, Merritt was scheduled to report to custody. Instead, Merritt disappeared after allegedly removing his ankle monitor.
This was one day before his mother was found dead at her home in the 1500 block of Planters Row in Tucker. DeKalb police said Merritt had been living with her at the time. After Merritt disappeared, surveillance video showed him at a gas station near Cartersville. Merritt became the primary suspect in Shirley Merritt’s death because he took off. During his trial, Merritt took the stand in his own defense and tried to persuade jurors that two armed men broke into his mother’s home and killed her. Said Merritt while on the stand,“This monster took this dumbbell and proceeded to bludgeon my mother right in front of me.”
The U.S. Marshals Service located Merritt in Nashville, Tennessee and took into custody. They noted that Merritt had changed his appearance, including growing out his hair.
According to court documents, Merritt was disbarred and jailed in 2017 after he admitted to stealing $75,000 from a client’s settlement. He pleaded guilty in January 2019 to settling civil lawsuits without telling his clients and keeping the money for himself. Investigators say the money he took from clients was used to buy a Porsche and go on vacation. In that case, Merritt was sentenced to 15 years in prison, plus 15 years of probation, and ordered to pay restitution of $454,706 in the Cobb case. Merritt was granted time to get his affairs in order by the judge who directed him to return to custody by Feb. 1, which was the same day the attack on his mother occurred.
Mike Jefcoat, a relative of the victim, said after the sentencing, “I just want the court to know what an evil person he is in the eyes of his family. Everybody in the family has been impacted by this. Everybody has been impacted by the death of Shirley. We miss her still every day.”