XENIA — The Xenia Municipal Court ruled Feb. 2 that enough probable cause exists to believe Dustin Merrick, 25, of Xenia, allegedly committed two counts of aggravated murder and that Bret Merrick, 24, of Centerville, allegedly committed one count of felonious assault, two counts of complicity to aggravated burglary, and two counts of complicity to aggravated murder. The cases will now be transferred to the Greene County Common Pleas Court for presentment to a grand jury.
A preliminary hearing for the two brothers carrying charges in relation to the recent Yellow Springs double homicide began in Judge Michael Murry’s courtroom earlier in the day.
On Jan. 15, William Brown, 44, of Yellow Springs was shot multiple times inside a duplex-style home. Sherri Mendenhall, 63, of Yellow Springs, was shot once and found in the driveway at the same residence, located on the 4400 block of East Enon Road just outside of Yellow Springs.
At least 10 witnesses took the stand during the hearing for Dustin Merrick — including members of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Miami Valley Township Fire-Rescue and Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).
According to testimony provided in court, the alleged events occurred at approximately 3:20 a.m. Brent Riley, a special agent in BCI’s cyber crimes unit, said that he viewed footage from Brown’s video surveillance cameras to determine this time.
Testimony by Perry Roeser, a BCI special agent in the crime scene division, revealed that three cell phones were found on a nightstand in Brown’s room. Riley said that he discovered the last activity on one of the cell phones was an outgoing call at approximately 3:11 a.m. The numbers dialed and sent were 9-1.
Testimony also revealed that Dustin Merrick allegedly worked for Brown, that he had been referred to as “Skip’s right hand man.” Brown also reportedly owed Dustin Merrick $400.
Cartridge cases, live ammunition and a shotgun shell were found in various places throughout Brown’s home: the roof of the carport, the bedroom floor, the kitchen and the hallway. Brown’s body was found on the bedroom floor.
Another witness in the case, Matthew White, is an expert firearm examiner and BCI forensic scientist. White, testifying via Skype, explained that he examined a firearm — a pistol — and compared it to cartridge cases found on scene.
“I was able to conclude three fired 9-millimeter cartridge cases were fired in the submitted … pistol,” White said.
A BCI forensic scientist in the DNA section, Timothy Augsback, testified that DNA found on the cartridges matched Dustin Merrick’s DNA, concluding that the likelihood that the DNA results could include an unrelated individual other than Dustin Merrick was statistically 1 in 1 trillion individuals. Brown’s DNA also matched, making him the second “contributor.”
In closing remarks, Dustin Merrick’s attorney, Thomas Kollin, addressed the court.
“Dustin Merrick’s gun was at the scene … bullets were at the scene — but there is no evidence that he was there at the scene,” Kollin said. “Zero probable cause puts Mr. Merrick as the trigger man or puts him at the scene. That just puts the gun there.”
After Judge Murry announced that there was enough probable cause to move Dustin Merrick’s case to the Greene County Common Pleas Court, a preliminary hearing began for Bret Merrick, in which three witnesses were called to the stand.
Two detectives from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and a firefighter/paramedic from the Miami Township Fire and Rescue Department, who initially responded to the call, each provided testimony.
Detective Kelly Edwards of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office said that Bret Merrick was picked up by police and interviewed for approximately five and a half hours following the crime. She said when Bret Merrick initially began the interview, he expressed denial. However, upon her entering the interview room approximately one hour and forty minutes into the discussion, according to her testimony, he changed his tune and started making admissions relating to his involvement.
However, Bret Merrick’s Attorney Anthony Vannoy argued that his client was not in the correct state of mind during the interview — that he had taken drugs or medication or that he had not eaten. He also pointed out that Edwards utilized the reasonable deception interviewing technique while talking with Bret Merrick. According to the hearing, reasonable deception involves the interviewee saying certain things in order to gain an admission.
Judge Michael Murry of the Xenia Municipal Court also increased the bond for both of the brothers from $750,000 with no 10 percent to $5 million cash surety. They are currently being held in the Greene County Jail.
Reach Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532; Reach Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.