Crime Watch

January 18, 2008

Trial begins in death of child by starvation

Dozens of supporters of a Whiteford couple accused of starving their adopted son to death crammed into a room in Harford County Circuit Court yesterday for the first day of the couple's trial.

Samuel Merryman, 40, and his wife, Donna Jean Merryman, 45, both Sunday school teachers, are charged with second-degree murder and first-degree child abuse of Dennis Gene Merryman, their 8-year-old son.

Dennis was among four children adopted by the couple from an orphanage in Prem, Russia, in 2000.

That year, Dennis weighed 39 pounds and was 38 1/2 inches tall, according to charging documents. At the time of his death in January 2005, Dennis had lost 2 pounds and was 41 1/2 inches tall.

Medical examiners concluded that the withholding of food caused him to starve to death, according to the documents.

In 2005, family members told The Sun that Dennis had medical problems, including cystic fibrosis, rickets and digestive problems.

The couple home-schooled their three biological and four adopted children on a 6-acre Whiteford farm. Dennis died after returning to the house from playing in snow, family members said in 2005.

The couple have been under house arrest after posting $50,000 bond each in August 2005.

The Harford County Department of Social Services became guardians of the other children, ages 13 to 17.

Last year, a judge denied the defense attorney's requests to interview the six children and to gain access to their psychological treatment records.

Madison Park

Brothers sentenced in assault case

Two brothers were sent to federal prison yesterday for assaulting a U.S. Postal Service manager.

U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson sentenced John Bermudez Jr., 31, of Brooklyn to 10 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for assaulting a government official. The judge sentenced Bermudez's brother, Gregory, 28, of Millersville to eight months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on the same charge.

Gregory Bermudez pleaded guilty July 26. A federal jury convicted John Bermudez Aug. 2.

According to the guilty plea, trial testimony and court documents, the brothers worked at a U.S. postal facility in Linthicum. On Feb. 8, 2006, one of them argued with a supervisor there about his work habits. Prosecutors said the brothers later attacked a manager who intervened by punching him and then kicking him as he lay on the ground.

Matthew Dolan

Search on for psychiatric patient

Police said yesterday that they were searching for a homeless man who left a state psychiatric hospital in Catonsville after being arrested this month on assault charges.

State police described Michael J. Dawson, 48, as a balding white man, 6 feet tall, weighing 195 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He is missing several teeth and has tattoos on both wrists, his left forearm and his right shoulder.

On Sunday, Dawson left Spring Grove State Hospital, where he was admitted as a patient Jan. 7, police said. Spring Grove officials reported Dawson's disappearance to the state police Wednesday and requested help.

Dawson was arrested by Baltimore County police Jan. 3 in the White Marsh area and was charged with assault, resisting arrest, theft and malicious destruction of property. He was committed to Franklin Square Hospital Center a day later on an emergency petition and remained there until he was transferred to Spring Grove, police said.

Police ask that anyone with information about Dawson call 911 or the state police Golden Ring barracks at 410-780-2700.

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