05-02-20 Puna murder suspect charged (Update)

Hawaiʻi Police Department
Criminal Investigation Section, Area I
Lieutenant Rio S. Amon-Wilkins
Phone: (808) 961-2252
Report No. 20-033752


Media Release (Update)

Hawaiʻi Island Police have charged the suspect in the Puna murder investigation that left an 82-year-old Hawaiian Paradise Park woman dead.

On Friday afternoon (May 1) the victim was been positively identified as Betty Jean Merrill. She is the mother of the suspect, Robert Dean Merrill.

After conferring with County Prosecutors, at 12:30 p.m. today (May 2), detectives with the Area I Criminal Investigation Section charged Robert Dean Merrill with second-degree murder. He remains in police custody in lieu of $1,000,000.00 bail pending his initial court appearance scheduled for Monday (May 4) in Hilo District Court.

Merrill’s charges stem from an incident on Friday morning (May 1) shortly before 9:00 a.m., when Puna Patrol officers responded to a residence on 15th Avenue in Hawaiian Paradise Park. Arriving officers contacted Merrill outside of the residence and they were directed to a bedroom in the residence, where they discovered the unresponsive victim with severe injuries to her head and facial areas. Merrill was subsequently arrested at the scene and transported to the Hilo cellblock while detectives with the Area I Criminal Investigation Section continued the murder investigation.

The victim was transported to the Hilo Medical Center where she was pronounced dead at 12:39 pm. An autopsy was performed and the pathologist concluded that the victim died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, face, and neck. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.

Anyone who may have information about this incident is asked to call Detective Wendall Carter of the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at (808) 961-2383 or WendallCarter@hawaiicounty.gov or the Hawai’i Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311.


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