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Hearing rescheduled after murder suspect refuses to leave cell

A 61-year-old Hawaiian Paradise Park man accused of bludgeoning his mother to death Friday was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

The hearing didn’t happen, however, as the defendant, Robert Dean Merrill, refused to leave his cell at Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

Merrill’s attorney, Brian De Lima, told Hilo District Judge Kanani Laubach his client “was aware that I’d be requesting a continuance today.”

“I’m not certain that contributed to his reluctance to leave his cell. He does have multiple issues, which is why I want to request a continuance to obtain his medical records and to obtain the completion of the police report, the 911 tapes and photographs,” De Lima said.

“It is the court’s understanding that he did refuse to leave his cell at HCCC,” Laubach said. “The court will find that he voluntarily excused himself from the proceeding.

“Mr. Hashizaki, any response?”

“Umm, no,” replied Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Hashizaki.

Laubach rescheduled the preliminary hearing for 2 p.m. June 2.

Merrill remains in custody at HCCC in lieu of $1 million bail.

According to court documents filed by police, Merrill called 911 on Friday to report that he killed 82-year-old Betty Jean Merrill, whose body was found in her bedroom of the 15th Avenue house she and her son shared.

The autopsy found the woman died of blunt-force trauma to the head, face and neck and the manner of death was homicide, according to documents. A blood-stained object resembling a Native American stone axe head was found on the kitchen counter, documents state.

According to documents, two prior calls for medical service were received earlier that morning via Betty Merrill’s Life Alert alarm, but Robert Merrill told responding medics everything was OK and wouldn’t let them inside to check on his mother.

Prosecutors asked that extended terms of imprisonment be considered, because of his mother’s age, if Merrill is convicted. If granted, Merrill faces a potential sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Wednesday’s incident isn’t the first time a criminal defendant refused to leave a jail cell for court hearings in Hilo.

Anthony Louis Gover, accused of robbing First Hawaiian Bank’s Pahoa branch at knifepoint on May 17, 2017, has refused to leave his cell at least 24 times for court proceedings, with the latest occurrence on April 24.

Gover’s attorney, Stanton Oshiro, and his former attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jeff Ng, have told judges Gover said the only way he’d leave his cell is “in a body bag.”

Gover, who is facing two counts of first-degree robbery, a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment upon conviction, is undergoing a third round of court-ordered mental examinations.

His next court date is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. June 19.

Gover remains in custody at HCCC

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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