• Review panel seeks death penalty for man charged in pair of Orlando homicides


    ORLANDO, Fla. - A review panel established by State Attorney Aramis Ayala filed a motion Wednesday to seek the death penalty for a man charged in a pair of Orlando homicides.

    Jimmy Merritt, 37, was arrested Oct. 25 on charges of first-degree murder with a firearm, investigators said. 

    Benny Hallmark, 64, was found shot to death Oct. 20 at his home on Lauressa Lane. Five days later, a decomposed body was found across the street from Hallmark’s home.

    Investigators said Hallmark’s pastor found him dead in his reclining chair in his living room.

    Interactive map: Orlando 2017 homicides

    Police said Merritt used Hallmark's checks. Police also said that Merritt admitted to a witness that he killed another person.

    Investigators said the witness told them that Merritt buried that person in a back yard of a home on Lauressa Lane, where detectives found the decomposed body wrapped in plastic and a blanket under large pile of wood and tools from the garage.

    Deputies later identified the second victim as Billy Deaton, who Merritt lived with and was reported missing.

    Merritt was also being held on forgery and grand theft charges because officers said they captured him on camera cashing a forged check belonging to Hallmark.  

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