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story.lead_photo.caption Merritt

A Hot Springs man was sentenced to six years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to multiple charges in Garland County Circuit Court, including a robbery earlier this year.

Tyler Lee Merritt, 22, pleaded guilty to robbery, reduced from an original charge of aggravated robbery, possession of a controlled substance with purpose to deliver, diazepam, possession of drugs and firearms and failure to appear and was sentenced to six years on each count, all to run concurrently. An additional charge of unauthorized use of another person's property to facilitate a crime was withdrawn.

Merritt had remained in custody since his last arrest on March 1, so court costs were expunged for time served.

His alleged accomplice in the robbery, Summer Nicole Dieterich, 21, who was also charged with aggravated robbery, appeared in circuit court Sept. 20 for a nonjury trial. After hearing testimony from both sides, Judge John Homer Wright dismissed the charge against her on the grounds she had not been positively identified by the victim.

According to the affidavit on the robbery charge, on Feb. 17, shortly before 6:30 p.m., Hot Springs police responded to a residence in the 200 block of Magnolia Street to an aggravated robbery that had just occurred.

They made contact with the male resident, who said he was in front of his house working on his car when he was approached by an unknown man and woman who offered to help him, but he declined. He said the man became irate and began cursing and yelling at him.

The man pulled out a pocketknife and tossed it on the ground and then punched the victim three times in the face. The victim grabbed the man and pulled him to the ground. The woman then grabbed the knife and held it to the victim's throat, he said. He pushed her away and got up and she reportedly stabbed him in the arm and chest with the knife.

The two suspects then demanded his wallet and he gave it to them, he said, and left the scene.

On Feb. 23, the victim called police to report he saw the same couple walking in the area. Officers arrived and made contact with Merritt and Dieterich. The victim said he was 100 percent sure they were the ones who robbed him and officers noted the two fit the descriptions the victim had originally provided.

According to the affidavit on the drug charges, on Sept. 14, 2016, police Officer Robert Plyler responded to a one-vehicle wreck in the 300 block of Lacey Street where the driver, identified as Merritt, had hit a ditch and appeared to be intoxicated. The female owner of the car, identified as Dieterich, was standing by the passenger door attempting to get a small child out of his car seat as Merritt was attempting to drive out of the ditch.

Merritt exited the vehicle and was observed to be unsteady on his feet, had slurred speech and bloodshot, watery eyes. Dieterich said Merritt was driving eastbound on Hobson Avenue very fast when he attempted to make a left turn onto Lacey Street, lost control and collided with the ditch and culvert.

While speaking with Dieterich, Plyler observed a shotgun lying in the front driver seat. She said she did not know who the shotgun belonged to or why it was in her vehicle. Plyler removed the shotgun and cleared a 20-gauge round from the chamber. He noted Dieterich appeared to be nervous and she said she "did not want Merritt to go to jail." When asked about multiple large bruises on her arms, neck and face, she became upset and said, "it was her fault because she was stressing over moving."

She was asked for consent to search her vehicle, but she did not give an answer. A K-9 unit responded and gave a positive response on a backpack Merritt had on his back. During a search of the backpack, officers located a set of digital scales, a pellet pistol, a glass pipe, brass knuckles and a small container with 3.7 grams of Diazepam.

Merritt said he bought the shotgun from his friend, but was not aware it was loaded and claimed the backpack was not his. He was arrested at that time on multiple felony charges as well as driving while intoxicated and other traffic charges.

Local on 12/05/2017

Print Headline: Local man pleads guilty to robbery, drug charges

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