SOUTH BEND — In Pacific County Superior Court Friday, Doreen Marie Morris, 51, of Long Beach pleaded guilty to 10 counts of possession of heroin, ending her direct involvement in an undercover narcotics investigation of her boyfriend, Robert Anthony “Tony” Merrill.
An April 4 raid on Merrill’s business, Long Beach Go-Kart Track, resulted in police seizing heroin, meth, prescription pills, almost $2,000 in cash and a vintage motorcycle that had been reported stolen.
Arrest reports showed that a “confidential informant,” or “CI” allegedly helped investigators build a case by purchasing heroin from Merrill and Morris on five occasions. For each deal, the unidentified CI used police-provided “buy-money,” and immediately turned the alleged drugs over to police.
“Over the course of the investigation and prosecution it became apparent that Mr. Merrill supplied the funds to maintain their narcotics activity and the funds to purchase a number of stolen firearms. Ms. Morris, having accepted responsibility for her involvement, will now be a witness in Merrill’s prosecution,” Mark McClain, Pacific County prosecutor, said last week in a press release. “I was unwilling to allow Ms. Morris to serve her sentence in a drug rehabilitation and instead insisted she plead to more felony counts than she actually committed in order to ensure a prison sentence, but the concession we made was a reduction in the overall prison sentence to ensure we have witnesses who could place Mr. Merrill at the center of the narcotics operation and gun trafficking.”
Morris faces as much as two years in prison when she returns on Nov. 3, 2017 for sentencing, though the plea agreement calls for a one-year prison sentence and one year on probation.
Merrill’s case remains in bench warrant status and any person who has information about Merrill is urged to call the Pacific County Sheriff’s non-emergency number: 360-875-9395. Local authorities are working with other law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Marshals Service to find him.
Merrill, after his arrest, posted $250,000 in bond, but later failed to report for a court appearance on May 19 and the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office successfully received an order forfeiting his bond.
“You would think a bond company would be working very hard to recover Merrill in order to receive some refund of their $250,000, which was forfeited in favor of the county, but so far we have received nothing from them and law enforcement continues to look for him,” McClain said. Merrill’s parents put up $25,000 — 10 percent of bond total — and will lose that money or the collateral they pledged.