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Trial underway in 2011 murder of Rita Ann Merritt

Merritt murder trial underway
Merritt murder trial underway

The trial for former soldier Shay Alexander Merritt is now underway almost three years after the fatal shooting that took the life of 27-year old Rita Ann Merritt.

Merritt is accused of murdering his wife just before midnight on September 17, 2011 by shooting her in the head with an assault rifle. The shooting incident was witnessed by the couple's three-year-old child.

Merritt was arrested at the scene of the crime and charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony crime and first degree cruelty to children.

On Thursday, jurors heard from the young child that witnessed the shooting. The prosecution played a videotaped interview that was conducted at a facility which specializes in forensic interviews for young children. The child was four-years-old at the time.

The interview showed the child speaking about the incident as she sat at an activity table busying herself by playing with Play Dough.

The young girl told the interviewers that she was with her mother on the couch just moments before her mother got up and was shot in a corner of the room near the kitchen.

She also told interviewers that her father said "bad words" to her mother before the shooting. She stated that her father shot her mother and indicated that her father had sole possession of the weapon at the time.

At the time of the murder, Merritt stated that his wife was bipolar and grabbed the gun to kill herself. Merritt also stated that he had also grabbed the gun in an effort to stop her from killing herself when the gun accidentally discharged. Merritt entered a not guilty plea in May of last year.

Two other children were present in the home at the time of the shooting.

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