Puyallup, WA – A Washington state man faces more than 25 years in prison after being found guilty of murdering a female roommate and then concealing the crime. He was also found guilty of an additional charge related to his “kissing” the genitals of the victim before burying her in a shallow grave.
On September 12, 2011, the ex-wife of Kelly Merz, 51, walked into the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department precinct to report that Merz had just called her and confessed to killing 33-year-old Cori Lewis. An investigation followed.
According to a prosecutor’s press release, in August 2011, the victim, 33-year-old Cori Lewis began renting a bedroom in Merz’ two-bedroom apartment with a friend. After “tension among the roommates,” Lewis and her friend were given an eviction notice by Merz. This reportedly lead to an argument between Merz and Lewis that “turned violent.” In his interview, Merz reportedly told investigators that, during the altercation, he, “tried unsuccessfully to break her neck.” According to prosecutors, “intent on killing Cori, he pinned her to the floor, pulled a .380 handgun from his back pocket, placed the muzzle to her head and fired once,” killing her.
During interviews, Merz described in detail his taking the victim’s body to a trail in a wooded area to dump her body. As he was preparing to dig a grave, a local man approached him. Due to Merz’ “nervous behavior and scratches on his face and arms,” the man called police. Merz was located by a sheriff’s deputy who reportedly had a discussion with Merz while the unburied corpse of Lewis sat 15-feet away. Neither the man who called police nor the deputy noticed the body and Merz was allowed to leave.
According to investigators, Merz returned to the site later and retrieved Lewis’ body. Merz then drove to a secluded area near nearby and dug a shallow grave. Merz confessed to then stripping the clothes from the victim’s body, kissing her genital area, and covering her body with dirt.
After Merz’ ex-wife visited police, Merz was arrested on an initial charge for murder and held on $2 million dollars bail.
Merz readily admitted to the details of killing Lewis at trial, but claimed he was, “not in his right mind at the time.” Prosecutors countered with substantial evidence of Merz’ determined efforts to conceal the crime – including dumping bloody clothes in trash bins at various local businesses – to persuade the jury that Merz was fully aware of his actions during and after the murder. Merz was subsequently found guilty of Murder in the First Degree and Sexually Violating Human Remains.
The one noticeable bit of back story to this is that Merz was reported to have been a lay minister in the New Testament Christian Churches of America - a church that has been described to have “cult-like practices.” You can find blogs for ex-NTCC members that have been following the case and include interviews purportedly with Merz’ brother and Lewis’ ex-husband.
Merz faces a combined sentence of possibly more than 25 years in prison. According to the Pierce County Court Database entry on Merz, the original sentencing hearing that had been scheduled for April 20 – and I had been patiently waiting for – has now been rescheduled for May 18.Tags: Cori Lewis, Kelly Merz, Murder, sexually violating human remains, Washington