Manhunt continues for lawyer accused of mother’s murder

Disbarred Cobb County lawyer Richard Merritt, 44, was scheduled Feb. 1 to turn himself in to the Cobb County Jail after pleading guilty to stealing settlement money from his clients.

Merritt pled guilty to 34 felony counts, including theft, forgery, exploitation of an elderly person and bank account fraud.

According to court documents, Merritt requested to be released to handle personal affairs and was set free on a $400,000 bond. Instead of turning himself in, Merritt allegedly stabbed his mother to death in her DeKalb home before cutting off his court-ordered ankle bracelet and stealing his mother’s car—a brown 2009 Lexus RX350, according to police.

DeKalb County Police responded to a call of a dead person inside a residence on Feb. 2 and arrived at Shirley Merritt’s house at 1590 Planters Row in Stone Mountain.

According to police, Shirley Merritt was stabbed to death in her home. Police said they believe the stabbing was “an isolated domestic related incident.”

Frank Lempka, supervisory inspector for the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, is handling the case for the U.S. Marshals Service. Lempka said it’s important to capture Richard Merritt as soon as possible.

“It’s important because of the severity of the case. The victim was his own mother,” Lempka said. “It’s important to capture someone who would do that.”

Lempka said police officials do not believe Richard Merritt has a “hit list” or plans to target anyone else but there are concerns that he could become violent if provoked.

“We believe it was an isolated incident, but he could hurt someone if he’s backed into a corner or feels threatened,” Lempka said.

As a medical malpractice attorney, Merritt stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from elderly clients from 2014 to 2017, according to court documents. Along with his prison sentence, Merritt was ordered to pay $454,706 in restitution.

Police officials said Richard Merritt could have access to finances or friends in other states around the southeast area.

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