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UPDATE: Appeals Court Upholds Life Sentence in Child Rape Case

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 10/25/13 @ 12:30 p.m.
ATHENS, Ohio (WSAZ) -- An appeals court in Ohio has upheld a life sentence for a man who admitted to raping two children at a church event.

The Athens County Prosecutor's Office says the 4th District Court of Appeals upheld the sentence of Richard Merryman, 22, of Canton, Ohio.

In September 2012, Merryman pleaded guilty in Athens County to two counts of rape and one count of kidnapping.

He was arrested in 2011 after investigators say he was in Athens County at an event with a Canton church group. He was accused of raping a four-year-old boy in a stairwell and kidnapping and raping a five-year-old boy in a restroom stall.

Following his plea, Merryman was sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole after 10 years.

Merryman's attorney appealed the sentence saying the trial court erred on four different points, including he was competent to stand trail.

In response, the Court of Appeals denied each of the appeal points.

Prosecutor Blackburn says, "I am very happy that the 4th District Court of Appeals agreed with the Athens County Prosecutor's office on this case. Merryman will continue to serve the remainder of his life sentence as found by the trial court."

He is still eligible for parole after he serves 10 years.



UPDATE 9/12/12 @ 3:50 p.m.
ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A 21-year-old man has pleaded guilty to raping two children during a church function.

Richard Merryman, 21, of Canton, Ohio, made the plea in Athens County Common Pleas Wednesday.

Merryman pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and one count of kidnapping.

Prosecutors say Merryman came to the event with a Canton church group. One of the incidents took place in the community center bathroom, while the other took place in a stairwell at the community center.

Following the plea, Merryman was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years.

“The State is satisfied that Merryman has been held accountable for his actions without the children having to testify and being subjected to any further trauma to them. It is my intention to oppose Merryman’s parole for as long as I am County Prosecutor,” said Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.



UPDATE 4/26/11
ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A Canton man has pleaded not guilty to rape and kidnapping charges.

Richard Merryman, 20, made the plea in the Athens County Common Pleas court last week.

A bond was set for $1 million.

According to court records, Merryman's attorney asked for a competency evaluation.

A trial date has been set for July 12.

The charges stem back from alleged incidents at the Albany Community Center on April 2.

According to the Athens County Sheriff's Office, Merryman raped two young boys during a church meeting.



UPDATE 4/12/11 @ 11 a.m.
ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Prosecutors now say a second young child was raped during a church meeting in Athens County .

Athens County Sheriff's Deputies arrested Richard Merryman, 20, from Canton, Ohio, was arrested following the alleged incidents at the Albany Community Center on April 2.

A local church in Albany was sponsoring the convention at the town's community center.

On Monday, an Athens County Grand Jury indicted Merryman on one count of rape and one count of kidnapping in the alleged incident involving a five-year-old boy. Prosecutors say the assault happened in a locked bathroom stall.

Merryman was also indicted on a second count of rape for the alleged assault on a 4-year-old boy.

Merryman could face life in prison if convicted of the charges.

The Athens County Sheriff says Merryman is a non-reporting sex offender under the custody of Stark County Children's Services. He was not supposed to leave the county.

Investigators say Merryman traveled to the church convention on a bus with family who were members of a church in Canton.



UPDATE 4/5/11 @ 6 p.m.
ATHENS COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- We have new details about the young man arrested and charged with raping a little boy.

It happened in Athens County this weekend during a church convention. On Tuesday, we learned more about the background of suspect Richard Merryman.

The Athens County Prosecutor's Office has been digging, and some troubling details are starting to emerge about Merryman.

He was charged Monday with sexual assault in the rape of a 5-year-old boy at the Albany City Building on Saturday. It happened in a locked bathroom stall during a church conference hosted by the local Bethel Apostolic Church.

Even though Merryman is a 20-year-old adult, the prosecutor's office has learned he was in the custody of Stark County Children's' Services in the Canton, Ohio, area. He's also classified as a sex offender, although neither the sheriff nor the prosecutor's office has yet learned why. But, possibly the most troubling: why Merryman even left the Canton area in the first place.

"According to our investigation, he was ordered by a judge not to leave without permission," Athens County Assistant Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said. "He gets involved with a church group about a month ago, who was planning a trip down to Athens County and asked for permission to go. The church group has no knowledge of his status in not being able to leave the county, being that he was an adult and Children's Services in Stark County had no idea he had been down here."

Blackburn says Merryman was classified as a developmentally disabled adult, but was tested and cleared of that status about six months ago.

There are still a lot of questions that remain to be answered in this case. Merryman is also accused of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old in the same building on Saturday. Those charges are pending, and a grand jury is expected to hear the case against Merryman on Monday.



UPDATE 4/5/11 @ 7:15 a.m.
ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- According to Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly's Facebook page, rape suspect Richard Merryman was not permitted to leave Stark County.

According to a Facebook post, Kelly says Merryman is a non-reporting sex offender under the custody of Stark County Children's Services.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest in this case.



UPDATE 4/4/11 @ 6:30 p.m.
ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Trust betrayed in a sacred environment -- that's what two families are dealing with Monday after their little boys were raped at a church conference.

It was a statewide church convention in Ohio, sponsored by a local church in Albany at the town's community center.

But, what started out as a weekend of church fun, fellowship and family, ended in violence, deviance and innocence lost forever.

“We know we have multiple victims in these assaults,” Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly said.

It's with a heavy heart that any law enforcement official has to work a case involving sexual violence against children.

“Obviously, it's disturbing when a child is involved," Kelly said. "We set shock factor aside so we can build a case against the person."

In this case, that person is Richard Merryman, 20, of Canton, Ohio. He traveled to the Athens County church convention on a bus with family who were members of a church in Canton. That convention took place at the Albany Community Center, and that's where police say Merryman enticed two boys into compromising positions.

“Family member noticed something wrong with the boy. He told parents, and they told police and we got the bus stopped,” Kelly said.

Kelly also said, “We have not charged him with the 4-year-old. It happened the same day at the same location. The 5-year-old was assaulted in stall, the 4-year-old was assaulted in stairwell,” Kelly said.

So far, Merryman faces one count of rape in connection with assaulting the 5-year-old in the locked bathroom stall.

“He faces up to life if we can prove force," Athens County Assistant Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said. "Since they were locked in a stall, I think we think we can prove it."

Rape charges for the act against the 4-year-old are pending. Merryman has been in trouble with the law before. He was charged with battery as a juvenile in Florida.

Police are investigating whether those charges were sexual in nature.



ORIGINAL STORY
ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A 20-year-old man is charged with raping a 5-year-old boy during a church function in Albany, Ohio on Saturday.

Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly says Richard Merryman, of Canton, Ohio was arrested following the alleged incident at the Albany Community Center.

Sheriff Kelly says Merryman enticed the boy into a restroom stall and then performed sexual acts on the child.

The Albany Bethel Apostolic Church was holding the event at the community center.

Investigators say Merryman was at the function with a church group out of Canton. He was arrested on the church bus as they were leaving to head back to Canton.

Kelly says the boy identified Merryman after the church pastor called police.

The Sheriff says investigators are also looking into a second incident involving a 4-year-old boy. Kelly say this alleged incident happened in a stairwell at the community center.

At this time, no charges have been filed in that incident.

Kelly says the children are not from Athens County, but neighboring counties.

Merryman was arraigned in Athens Municipal Court on Monday. He is charged with one count of rape. His bond was set at $500,000.

Merryman is being held in the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail.

Kelly says Merryman has a previous assault charge out of Florida.


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