Facing 30 years for financial crimes, a disbarred attorney allegedly broke free of his ankle monitor, murdered his mother, and fled.
Richard Merritt, 44, was scheduled to report to prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from elderly clients. Now police are looking for him because he allegedly stabbed his mother to death.
Family members said they never thought Merritt was capable of such violence. Police said he is "extremely dangerous."
Frank Lempka, an inspector with the U.S. Marshals, said police are searching for the suspect nationwide. Merritt, who practiced law in Georgia and went to school in Mississippi, has contacts throughout the South.
"After what he already did recently, he's extremely dangerous to the public and to anyone who may encounter him," Lempka said.
Robert Merritt, the suspect's brother, said their mother was very supportive of Richard Merritt's legal career. Prior to the murder, he said, his mother and brother were "very close."
"Now there's another victim, my mother, who was brutally murdered," Robert Merritt said. "And, we've got a whole family who's concerned and frightened."
The former Cobb County lawyer was disbarred, then jailed a year ago after he admitted stealing $75,000 from a client. Prosecutors followed up with felony elder abuse, theft, and exploitation charges.
Last month, he pleaded guilty to forging signatures and stealing money from 17 former clients. A judge ordered him to repay $454,706 and to serve 15 years in prison, 15 on probation.
The judge allowed Merritt time to "get his affairs in order" before reporting to prison. According to police, he went to his mother's house and stabbed her to death.
He may be driving her brown 2009 Lexus RX350, license plate CBV6004, which was missing when police found her body.