Jury selection is expected to take about two weeks in the trial of a man accused of killing two people just outside Yellow Springs.
The capital murder trial of 27-year-old Dustin Michael Merrick started on Tuesday in Greene County Common Pleas Court in Judge Michael Buckwalter’s courtroom.
Merrick is charged with aggravated murder and could face the death penalty if convicted in the shooting deaths of 44-year-old William “Skip” Brown and 63-year-old Sherri Mendenhall in Bath Twp. The two victims were friends and neighbors.
Their bodies were found Jan. 15, 2017, at the duplex where they lived in separate apartments on East Enon Road.
Dustin’s brother, 26-year-old Bret Sterling Merrick, is also charged with aggravated murder. His trial is scheduled to begin in October.
Both brothers are being held in the Greene County Jail in lieu of $5 million bonds.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys are in the process of selecting a jury of 12, with four alternates, out of 348 potential candidates, said Dennis McManes, logistics coordinator for Buckwalter.
He said the potential jurors are being asked to fill out a questionnaire, and their answers will be reviewed and evaluated by attorneys on both sides.
“It’s a more in-depth process because it’s a capital murder case,” he said.
McManes said opening statements by the prosecution and defense are not expected to happen until the week of Sept. 17.
Brown was the owner of Legendary Roofing Company and maintained a gallery of his great grandfather’s works, renowned photographer Axel Bahnsen.
During a February 2017 hearing for probable cause in the case, investigators testified that Dustin Merrick worked for Brown and was unhappy with his work hours. Dustin Merrick’s attorney at the time, Tom Collins, argued the evidence does not put his client at the scene when the shooting occurred.
Yellow Springs resident Joe Ayres said he was a friend to Brown and knew his father and grandfather. Ayres became emotional as he recalled the crime and asked, “Why would you do that?”
“I used to run on the squad. I’ve seen murder here before. It doesn’t happen very often … It shouldn’t happen anywhere, but it’s surprising here,” Ayres said.
Kathy Sanders lives a few doors down from where Brown and Mendenhall lived and where their bodies were discovered. Sanders said Brown had been at her homes about two weeks before he was killed. Brown was going to be doing some work for her, she said.
“I generally turn left because when I go right then I’m always brought back to that day when it happened,” Sanders said of her routine of no longer driving by the victims’ former apartments. “I tend to avoid going that direction. It just kind of shakes your reality when something that horrific happens so close to you. Those kinds of things can happen to anybody, but you just don’t think about it and then it becomes a real reality when it actually does.”
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Dustin Merrick is currently being represented by Gregory Meyers and Kirk McVay. The attorneys could not be reached for comment.