November 19, 2012

Kennebec, Somerset counties pharmacy robber sentenced to 15 years in prison

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- A city man will spend the next 15 years in prison after admitting to robbing two pharmacies the same day at opposite ends of Kennebec County and another in Somerset County three days later.

click image to enlarge

Shawn Merrill, who pleaded guilty to several pharmacy robberies in the area, was sentenced Monday at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta to serve 15 years in prison.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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SHAWN MERRILL'S MAINE CRIMES

° Four robberies, three at pharmacies and one of a gas station attendant

° Four burglaries

° Four counts of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer

° Two counts of criminal mischief

° One count each of escape and eluding an officer

Shawn M. Merrill, 27, of Augusta also confessed to robbing two pharmacies in Connecticut.

He was sentenced Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court on 16 offenses, some of which date to 2010, when he robbed an attendant at J&S Oil gas station and convenience store in Augusta.

The complete sentence imposed by Justice Nancy Mills was 25 years in prison, with all but 15 years suspended, and five years of probation.

"Based on this record, my concern now is for the people of the state of Maine, not for Mr. Merrill," Mills said.

On Monday, Merrill pleaded guilty to robbing pharmacies in two stores -- Goggins IGA in Randolph and Waterville Walmart -- on June 12, and the Rite Aid pharmacy in Fairfield on June 15. Merrill demanded oxycodone at all the pharmacies and indicated in a note and sometimes also verbally that he had a gun.

Merrill walked into court with a slight shuffle, a chain running from handcuffed wrists to the shackles on his ankles. He spoke haltingly, as tears streamed down his face.

"If not for my drug dependency, I would not have committed all the crimes I have," Merrill told the judge. "Looking back now, I regret all that I've done. Addiction is very strong and powerful."

Alexandrea Wysote, who identified herself as his fiancé, and his two young children, watched the sentencing hearing from a bench at the rear of the courtroom. Wysote told the judge that Merrill was "an amazing father" who puts others first, but she said once he escaped from custody earlier this year "he fell apart so fast no one could stop him."

Wysote, 23, of Farmingdale had originally been charged in connection with the Waterville robbery, and on Friday she pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of scheduled drugs and was fined $500.

His daughter waved and said, "Bye, daddy," as she left after sentencing.

Almost three hours after the Fairfield robbery, Merrill was spotted by state police driving a motorcycle south on Route 32 in China. When troopers tried to stop him, he led them on a chase through Windsor. He dumped the motorcycle, slid off the road in Chelsea and was captured a short time later.

Merrill confessed to all the robberies, which were caught on video. "There was no attempt on his part to disguise himself," said the prosecutor, acting District Attorney Alan Kelley.

Kelley also said police who later searched Merrill's car found two black air pistols.

The final sentence almost mirrored the one Kelley had sought. He had asked for an additional year of probation.

Merrill's defense attorney, William Baghdoyan, argued that Merrill's sentence should be 10 years, with all but an initial seven years suspended.

"The state's recommendation would basically throw away the possibility for rehabilitation and a decent life for Shawn Merrill," Baghdoyan argued. "I think he does have a chance for rehabilitation. There is evidence he could be successful."

Baghdoyan said Merrill has a construction job and was providing for his girlfriend and child while participating in a substance abuse program in Bangor.

Merrill also is a suspect in a June 7 robbery at Walgreens in Dayville, Conn., and a June 10 robbery at CVS Pharmacy in Plainfield, Conn. "What Connecticut chooses to do with him is totally independent of what we do," Kelley said Monday before the sentencing.

Kelley's sentencing memo calls Merrill a dangerous and violent criminal.

Merrill had pleaded guilty previously to the March 28, 2010, gas station attendant robbery had been admitted to the Co-Occurring Disorders Court, a specialty court for defendants with substance abuse problems and a mental illness diagnosis. He was terminated from that court earlier this summer.

Five uniformed sheriff's deputies and two court officers stood guard around the courtroom during the hearing on Monday because Merrill had escaped from the same courtroom on May 29 after another judge denied him bail.

The three pharmacy robberies occurred after that escape.

"He has been given the chance on probation and failed completely, serving 34 months of 36," Kelley said. "He has been given a chance in Co-Occurring Disorders Court ... and he has chosen to go the wrong way."

Mills agreed with the prosecution and described him as a criminal with mental health and substance abuse problems.

Just before imposing sentence, Mills said, "I am not sure what further could be done for Mr. Merrill. Sitting in that dock and deciding to hop over the bar because things weren't going his way is the definition of criminal thinking."

Betty Adams -- 621-5631
badams@centralmaine.com

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