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Airman receives courts-martial and sentence

QUANTICO, Va. -- Tech. Sgt. Michael L. Merritt, 319th Missile Squadron, facility manager, faced a judge-only General Court Martial March 17-18, 2014, and was sentenced to 50 years confinement, reduction to Airman Basic, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge.

The offenses include charges involving four children spanning from 2003 through 2013, including aggravated sexual assault, sexual abuse, sodomy, assault consummated by a battery, kidnapping and attempted kidnapping. The charges spanned Merritt's assignments in Germany and the United States.

"OSI investigators at Ramstein AB [Germany] pinpointed Merritt as the sole perpetrator after forensic evidence matched evidence found on some of the children's clothing," said Special Agent Christopher J. Ouellette, AFOSI 13th Field Investigations Squadron commander. "The Army laboratory (USACIL) used some pretty sophisticated equipment to test DNA which was crucial to us in our positive identification of Merritt. This forensic evidence, combined with compiled witness testimonies and corroborated circumstantial evidence, helped lead to Merritt's arrest at F.E. Warren AFB [Wyoming]," SA Ouellette added.

"Since the suspect was already at his next duty station, we had to carefully coordinate our efforts with stateside agencies as well as with our F.E. Warren OSI counterpart," said SA Ouellette. He reached out to SA Shannon L. Bancroft, OSI detachment 805 commander at F.E. Warren. "Building our case against Merritt took the full cooperation of military and civilian agencies in Germany and the U.S. It was a huge team effort," SA Ouellette added.

SA Ouellette's OSI team at Ramstein AB initially launched an investigation after a child came forward in January 2012 to say a man had pulled her into his car and molested her in the Ramstein housing area.

Military authorities at F. E. Warren AFB ordered Merritt into pretrial confinement last October after his reassignment to F.E. Warren AFB in August to the 319th Missile Squadron where he served in a support role and did not have direct contact with the base's nuclear operations mission. Most of the charges stemmed from offenses he committed while assigned at Ramstein.

Merritt pled guilty to the charged offenses in exchange for agreement by the general court-martial convening authority to cap confinement at 25 years. There was no other limitation on sentence. The agreement saved four young child victims from having to testify and recount Merritt's abuse in a litigated trial.

The case was jointly covered from beginning to end by the following public affairs offices: Secretary of the Air Force; HQ Air Force Office of Special Investigations; USAFE-AFAFRICA Command; AFGSC; 86 Air Wing, 90th Missile Wing and US Army Criminal Investigation Command. For queries, contact the 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs Office at 307-773-3381.