for immediate release
December 5, 2002

N E W S   R E L E A S E

MERRIELL CAPTURED

DEC. 7 UPDATE: Phillip Lamar Merriell was taken into custody without incident this morning (Saturday morning) in Raymond, New Hampshire by a New Hampshire State Trooper who stopped to offer assistance when she encountered his disabled vehicle. A license tag check revealed the Okaloosa County warrant for attempted murder and other charges. Merriell was driving a red Mustang at the time. Investigators believe he left the area in the Mustang, which he also owns. 

DEC. 6 UPDATE: The Toyota Tacoma pickup truck has been located on Rocky Bayou Drive in a residential section of Niceville. Mr. Merriell's whereabouts remain unknown.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office is investigating a gunpoint abduction, sexual battery, and shooting. The incident began in Destin late Wednesday night and ended in Niceville approximately seven hours later.

Sought is Phillip Lamar Merriell, a black male, five-foot-nine, 185 pounds, age 49 (12-17-1952). Merriell most recently resided in Navarre, but also has lived in Fort Walton Beach and Chipley. He was last seen driving a grey 2002 Toyota Tacoma extended cab pickup truck with tinted windows, bearing Florida tag F31 SKP.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office has obtained a warrant naming Merriel on charges of Attempted Murder, Armed Kidnaping, Sexual Battery, and Use of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony.

He is alleged to have ambushed his estranged wife late last night (Wednesday night) in Destin, and forced her at gunpoint to drive with him on various roads in Okaloosa and adjoining counties for several hours. The victim was shot in the chest during an unsuccessful escape attempt at one point, then successfully escaped a short time later when Merriel stopped for a traffic light at Highway 85 and College Boulevard in Niceville at approximately 6:00 o'clock this morning. The victim's injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

Anybody with information about Merriell's whereabouts should contact the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office at (850) 651-7400 or Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers at (850) 863-TIPS (863-8477) or toll-free at 1-888-654-TIPS.

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for more information contact Rick Hord, Public Information Officer

(850) 651-7420

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