Investigator: Greene County double-murder defendant not initially considered a suspect

Key evidence is being challenged by the defense in the murder case against Brett Merrick, who is charged along with his brother in the January murders of two Greene County residents.

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Merrick, 24, appeared in Judge Stephen Wolaver's courtroom today as the prosecution called on the investigators to testify regarding their initial interview with the defendant. 

That interview happened Jan. 24, the same day investigators arrested Brett's brother Dustin Merrick on suspicion of murder and searched his home. 

RELATED >>> Key evidence challenged in Greene County capital murder case

Brett Merrick was arrested later that day, after he was interrogated on video at the Xenia police station for what prosecutors estimated to be six and a half hours. 

Both brothers are charged with aggravated murder and could face the death penalty if convicted in the fatal shootings of William "Skip" Brown and Sherri Mendenhall, whose bodies were discovered Jan. 15 at the duplex where they lived in separate apartments on East Enon Road near Yellow Springs. 

RELATED >>> Greene County double-homicide case going to grand jury

Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Seth Hagaman was the first to be called to testify. Hagaman testified that he was called in to assist the Greene County Sheriff's Office in the investigation. He led the first interview with Brett Merrick. 

Hagaman asserted that Brett Merrick voluntarily went to the police station for the interview and he was considered a "witness" at the time and not a suspect, which is why he was not read his Miranda rights. 

Hagaman told the courtroom that Brett Merrick had every opportunity to end the interrogation and leave, but he chose to speak without the presence of a lawyer.

SEE WHO’S IN JAIL: Greene County Jail inmates 

Hagaman said he interviewed the defendant for approximately one hour and 45 minutes and during that time he came to the conclusion that Brett Merrick was lying about his brother's whereabouts on the day in question. 

Defense Attorney Dennis Lieberman hammered Hagaman with questions as to at what point did Brett Merrick become a suspect. 

"I viewed him as a witness in the sense that I was told Dustin Merrick could offer Brett as his alibi for where he was on the night of the murder," Hagaman responded. "That's why I wanted an opportunity to talk to him fresh without the two of them having a chance to interact." 

Lieberman asserted that the investigators could have interviewed Brett Merrick before or after Dustin's arrest and not simultaneous to his arrest. 

The prosecution planned to call two more witnesses to the stand. Wolaver is expected to rule on the motion to suppress at a later date. 

Judge Michael Buckwalter could decide as early as next week on a motion to suppress evidence in Dustin Merrick's case, which was filed based on the defense's claim that investigators obtained the alleged firearm that was used in the slayings through a warrantless seizure. 

Both brothers are being held in the Greene County Jail, each in lieu of $5 million bond. While the judges will need time to decide on various motions filed by the defense teams, Brett Merrick's trial is scheduled to be in March 2018 and Dustin's trial is scheduled to begin in November.

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