James Merritt Murders Haley Decker

James Merritt Haley Decker

James Merritt is a killer from Missouri who would murder eighteen year old Illinois teen Haley Decker

According to court documents James Merritt lived near the border of Missouri and Illinois when he would murder Haley Decker and stuffed the teenager into a suitcase which he would later abandon in a nature reserve in Illinois

Police were able to figure out that James Merritt was sex trafficking eighteen year old Haley Decker. Police investigators would also find blood in Merritt vehicle that would later be determined to be Haley Deckers

James Merritt would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison plus twenty nine years

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James Merritt Case

A Pemiscot County jury deliberated for 90 minutes before finding a Morehouse, Missouri, man guilty of second degree murder for the death an 18-year-old Illinois woman.

James Merritt, 35, was also found guilty of armed criminal action, tampering with physical evidence and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

During the three-day trial, which began Jan. 24 in Pemiscot County following a change of venue from New Madrid County, New Madrid County Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Lawson called 12 witnesses and introduced 96 exhibits into evidence. The defense called one witness, with Merritt declining to testify.

Merritt was charged in connection with the death of Haley Decker of Normal, Illinois, who was reported missing March 4, 2020. On March 26, 2020, her body was discovered in a suitcase in the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge in rural Pulaski County, Illinois. An autopsy determined the woman died after being struck on the head multiple times by a blunt object.

In their investigation of the case, the Missouri Highway Patrol determined Decker was a prostitute working in Southeast Missouri. After officers located her phone in Morehouse, they were then able to trace her location to Merritt’s residence.

During a formal interview with investigators, Merritt admitted to meeting Decker online. Also he admitted during the interview that he had taken Decker to Sikeston and Cape Girardeau on multiple occasions to meet “Johns” for the purpose of prostitution.

In addition officers were able to use cellular records from Decker and Merritt’s phones to determine they were in the same location on Jan. 25, 2020, in southern Illinois where Decker’s remains were found.

After returning the verdict, the jurors were asked to deliberate a second time to make a recommendation for sentencing. The jury deliberated about 45 minutes and recommended Merritt be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison on the murder charge, 20 years for the armed criminal action charge, four years in prison for tampering with physical evidence and five years in prison along with a fine on the charge of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

“I am extremely pleased with the jury’s verdicts in this case,” said Lawson at the conclusion of the trial. “Without the tireless efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies, this verdict would not have been possible. Thanks to the outstanding cooperation between the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the New Madrid County Sheriff’s Department and the Illinois State Police, the defendant was arrested within three weeks of the victim’s body being discovered.”

Formal sentencing was set by Circuit Judge Joshua Underwood for 9 a.m. March 13. At that time Underwood will decide whether to run the jury’s recommended sentences concurrently to each other or consecutively.


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