NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A once prominent attorney accused of murdering his mother in Georgia started life over in Nashville, according to US Marshals.
Richard Merritt changed his look, had a fake ID and went by the alias Mick Malveaux.
The fugitive frequented West Nashville and investigators believe he lived near Music Row.
Merritt was a regular at several dive bars and an employee for several months at Betty’s Grill off Charlotte Avenue, just around the corner from where he was apprehended Monday afternoon.
“He just got to Nashville, made up a new identity and completely started over,” Frank Lempka with the US Marshals Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force told News 2.
He believes Merritt may have been in Music City since fleeing Georgia in February.
“Merritt had changed his appearance by growing his hair longer and having a full beard,” Lempka explained.
He says Merritt was still driving his mother’s stolen Lexus SUV, which had a stolen tag on it. Lempka says it was discovered off of 18th Avenue South last Thursday when some juveniles attempted to break into it, which is what ultimately led them to Merritt.
Investigators from the US Marshal’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force worked in conjunction with US Marshals in Nashville to arrest Merritt.
“It was a nationwide manhunt, especially initially, and the trail went cold for a while and we continued to check everything we could, but we didn’t have a lot to go on for a while so then we finally caught a big break when his vehicle was found,” said Lempka.
Merritt was apprehended around 4 Monday afternoon inside the Southern Thrift Store off Charlotte Avenue.
“They tackled him right in front of the register because we had people in line. Someone was in the middle of a transaction and it happened just right in front of the store. They literally said get down on the ground and tackled him to the ground, knee on the back of the neck, hand-cuffed, taser out, the whole nine yards,” said Gabrielle Flemeister, who manages the thrift store told News 2.
It was just around the corner from where Merritt had worked for months. The owner of Betty’s Grill said he worked as a bartender until Sept. 10, when he was fired for running off customers.
She described “Mick” as arrogant and rude, saying he told colleagues he was from Louisiana. It was a story he stuck with around town.
“The story here was that he was from New Orleans,” Jesse Baker of Springwater Supper Club & Lounge told News 2.
Baker was bartending when he first met Merritt in April.
“He came in every day, maybe for about 3 weeks.” Until they banned him from the dive bar, Baker saying he was full of lies and aggressive toward women.
“It was just predatory, aggressive activity,” he explained. Baker says another bar followed suit for the same behavior.
“We all kind of knew that he was at the very least a sociopath of some sort, but definitely definitely not the extent of it,” said Baker.
Now former colleagues at Betty’s are shaken and others in the bar industry are left thinking what could have happened had Merritt snapped.
“It’s frightening in the sense that it’s very close to home in the weirdest way. Several people I know were in a bar this gentleman worked at, alone, late at night and to know that now…it makes it difficult not to question everybody a whole lot harder,” stated Baker.
Investigators say Merritt was smarter than the average criminal, as he cut off all ties with family and friends and led a new life.