SHREVEPORT, La. – Acting United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced that Dillon James Merritt, 54, of Many, Louisiana was sentenced today by United States District Judge Donald E. Walter to life imprisonment, plus 600 months in prison, followed by 20 years of supervised release, on kidnapping, interstate domestic violence, and firearms charges. This sentence is the result of two separate cases in which Merritt was charged and convicted.
In the first case, Merritt was charged in December 2019 with two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Law enforcement officers with the Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office, learned that Merritt, who had several felony convictions, had firearms in his possession. On January 12, 2018, law enforcement officers arrested Merritt on a warrant based on his illegal possession of a firearm. Merritt went to trial in April 2021 and was convicted by a federal jury on both of those counts.
In the second case, Merritt was charged in September 2020 with one count of kidnapping, two counts of interstate domestic violence, and one count of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. He was convicted by a federal jury after a three-day trial in July of this year on all four counts. Evidence at the jury trial revealed that on December 12, 2017, Merritt kidnapped a woman in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and took her across state lines to Texas and held her against her will for four days. Merritt and the woman (victim) briefly dated in the fall of 2017, but after Merritt punched the victim in the stomach following an argument, she severed the relationship with Merritt. Following the breakup, he continually called the victim and harassed her.
During the evening hours of December 12, 2017, Merritt found the victim walking back home from visiting with a friend near the Walmart parking lot in Natchitoches and struck her in the head and put her in a truck and left. The victim was bound and gagged and hidden under clothing in the vehicle and for the next several days, was taken by Merritt to various locations in Louisiana and remote locations in Texas near Toledo Bend. Merritt repeatedly raped the victim, doused her with lighter fluid and tried to set her on fire, and severely beat her with his fists, elbows, feet and with a Maglite flashlight over this four-day period causing serious bodily injury to the victim. In addition to the brutal beatings, aggravated sexual assault, and sexual abuse on the victim committed by Merritt, he possessed with the intent to distribute 5 grams or more of methamphetamine.
Additional evidence was introduced at today’s sentencing hearing of Merritt’s past victims who have suffered at his hand, including three young children and four other women besides the victim in this kidnapping case. Those crimes are as follows:
- In 1999, Merritt was convicted of simple battery after beating his then nine-year-old son with a coat hanger.
- In 2000, Merritt was again convicted of simple battery after beating his former girlfriend.
- In 2001, Merritt tortured his then two-year-old stepdaughter by spraying hair spray in her eyes, twisting her leg and breaking her tibia, twisting her arm and dislocating her shoulder, and then refused to seek medical treatment for her. In September 2002, Merritt was convicted by a jury of cruelty to a juvenile for these crimes.
- In February 2005, Merritt was again convicted of cruelty to a juvenile as the result of an incident in June 2002, while Merritt was on pretrial release for the first cruelty to a juvenile charge, when he struck the head of a four-year-old boy and strangled him. He broke the front door to and attempted to enter the boy’s residence after his parents retreated inside, apparently hiding from Merritt and they called the police. Merritt was released on parole for the abuse of these two children in 2008.
- In less than a year after being released from the 2005 conviction, in June 2009, Merritt severely beat his new girlfriend by strangling, kicking, punching and beating her with a belt. The victim girlfriend sustained a collapsed lung, bruising to her thighs, arms, shin and posterior flank, as well as a hemorrhage with bruising around her eyes. Merritt was convicted of second-degree battery and sent back to prison, but released again in August 2012.
- In June 2013, Merritt savagely beat his new girlfriend, A.M., making her the sixth known victim who had suffered at the hands of Merritt. Testimony at today’s hearing from the victim’s sister showed that Merritt repeatedly beat, strangled, and raped the victim and eventually dumped her nearly lifeless body onto the front steps of his neighbor’s trailer. The neighbor called an ambulance, and they transported the victim to the hospital where she was resuscitated multiple times and she remained in intensive care for several weeks. She suffered from fractured ribs, bruising and swelling all over her face and body, and a head injury. The head injury brought on a series of strokes that caused permanent brain damage. Although this victim survived the brutal attacks by Merritt, she is in an assisted living facility because of the injuries he caused. The sister of the victim testified that her sister’s mental capacity and personality have never been the same since Merritt savagely beat her. Merritt was never prosecuted for this horrific crime by the Texas authorities.
- In August 2016, Merritt found a new girlfriend and she became his next victim. As was his practice, Merritt held the girlfriend captive over the course of several days while beating her body and face and strangled her until she almost passed out. The victim was able to escape and ran to a neighbor’s house for help. The responding police officer noted that the victim had bruises on her body, a very red eye, and complained of broken ribs. Merritt was convicted of domestic abuse battery and sentenced to a short stay in jail. Within a year and a half, in 2017, Merritt committed the instant offense, abducting and torturing his eighth and last victim.
“The severe brutality and sexual abuse which this defendant has inflicted upon others has finally ended and the life sentence he received ensures that he will never be a threat to society again,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook. “He preyed upon helpless children and women who were vulnerable and unknowing, and scarred each of them for the rest of their lives. We hope that this sentence can bring some form of healing to the eight victims – three children and five women – who suffered at the hands of such an evil and despicable person.”
The FBI, Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Sabine County Sheriff’s Office in Hemphill, Texas conducted the investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cadesby B. Cooper prosecuted both cases.
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