Late Friday afternoon, toward the end of the business day, Maricopa county prosecutors quietly filed a motion to dismiss all charges, without prejudice (which means it can be re-filed anytime later), against the I-10 freeway shooter, Leslie Allen Merritt Jr.
If you’ll recall, the city of Phoenix was literally held hostage and on edge for several months after 11 freeway shootings that occurred along the I-10 corridor in south Phoenix. Merritt was charged with four of the eleven shootings.
I remember being at a sporting event, when Governor Doug Ducey tweeted “We got him!” The stadium kind of erupted in angst. Finally they got this whack job, and we can go back to some as semblance of normalcy I thought. Case closed.
Earlier this week, the judge in the case, Judge Warren Granville, dropped Merritt’s bail to zero and freed him after being held for the last seven months in solitary confinement in a 9 x 5 cell for 23 hours a day. WOW! There was a palpable shock in the community, then yesterday the charges were dropped. Immediately, the feeling went from shock to “Ok something just doesn’t seem right here.”
Prosecutors cited their own ballistics expert, Lucian Haag, a world renown author of Shooting Incident Reconstruction, that basically stated the merit of their case just wasn’t there in terms of ballistic forensics. Meanwhile, Leslie Merritt has said from day one he wasn’t involved and that he had alibis that would eventually come out, namely, that the gun used, wasn’t in his possession, nor that he owned it. Recall, police found it at a pawn shop in Phoenix.
My question is this, did the shootings stop once Merritt was arrested? Yes. Why did they only charge him with 4 of the 11 shootings? And then, how long did prosecutors know their case was weak at best or the evidence simply wasn’t there to hold this father and husband in solitary confinement for 7 months at worst. Laurie Roberts, a well respected writer at The Republic wrote and excellent piece yesterday when the story quietly broke.
There are a lot more questions than answers, one thing is for certain, the county may as well break out the check book, lick the pencil tip and start writing figures. Because this was mishandled about as badly as it could have since day one.