Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005 | 11:07 a.m.
A missing victim and missing witnesses in an attempted murder case are resulting in the early release of a man who had been convicted in the notorious 1986 "Show and Tell" murder.
William Charles Merritt served 12 years in prison in that case.
District Judge Donald Mosley on Tuesday sentenced the 36-year-old Merritt to one to four years in prison for attacking David Quaranta in November 2000. But because of roughly 1,300 days served and credit for behaving well while incarcerated, Merritt has already covered the sentence.
"He should go to prison, change his clothes and leave," Merritt's attorney, Steven Altig, said Tuesday.
Altig said because the prosecution failed to locate the victim or any of the key witnesses of the attack, Merritt was offered a deal that allowed him to plead guilty to one count each of possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of credit or debit card without owner's consent on June 28.
Merritt was originally facing nine charges, including one each of attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon.
Mosley ran the two sentences concurrently because of the five years Merritt has been in jail awaiting resolution of his case. The judge said, however, that he felt the negotiation was "contrary to common sense."
Altig said, "This deal was offered because of the fact all the parties involved, the victim and the witnesses were all involved in the meth subculture. They were on drugs, and some got into legal problems and went to jail and prison. Once they got out, they probably got lost back in the drug life, making it near impossible to find them."
Prosecutors had initially alleged Merritt had chased Quranta with a hatchet in an attempt to kill him on Nov. 5, 2000. They claimed Merritt also stole a car and several credit cards during the incident.
Deputy District Attorney Ross Miller, who offered the negotiation to Merritt, did not return calls seeking comment on the plea agreement.
When given the opportunity to address the court, Merritt simply said, "This was five years ago when I made some silly choices and did some silly things."
Merritt then thanked Mosley, saying "without your help this case would still be dragging on."
In 1986 Merritt was 17 when he, 15-year-old Sandy Shaw and 18-year-old Troy Kell participated in the killing of 21-year-old James Cotton Kelly.
Shaw has said Kelly had picked her up a few months prior to the murder at Circus Circus and called her at home repeatedly, against her wishes. Shaw told police that Kelly wanted her "to pose nude on a Corvette."
Prosecutors said Shaw lured Kelly to the desert where Merritt and Kell were waiting. He was shot six times in the face and robbed of $1,400.
Shaw told police she didn't fire any of the shots that killed Kelly and had asked Kell and Merritt only to beat Kelly up.
In the days following the killing, Shaw took Rancho High School friends to the murder scene to view the corpse, hence the "Show and Tell" murder. Police would not find Kelly's body for six days.
Shaw and Kell were both sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the Kelly murder. Kell later killed a prison inmate in Utah and was sentenced to death. He awaits execution.