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An Illinois State Police investigation results in a life sentence for a southeast Missouri murder

Mugshot of James Merritt
Illinois State Police
James Merritt

A southeast Missouri man has been sentenced on Second Degree Murder and other charges related to a body found in southern Illinois.

The Illinois State Police reports 35-year-old James Merritt of Morehouse, Missouri has received a life sentence for Second Degree Murder. He was also convicted of Armed Criminal Action, Tampering with Physical Evidence and Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation. The charges all stem from a body found in rural Pulaski County in March of 2020.

The body of an unknown woman was located inside a suitcase in the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Fingerprints confirmed the body was 18-year-old Haley Decker of Normal, Illinois, who had been reported missing a few weeks earlier.

Once Decker was identified, agents connected her through digital evidence to Merritt’s residence in Morehouse, Missouri. In April 2020, a search warrant at Merritt’s residence led to evidence that proved Decker had once lived with him.

As the investigation progressed, it was determined Merritt was responsible for the death of Decker.

As a news producer and news anchor on All Things Considered, Brad provides the listeners with a recap of the day's top local and state news as well as breaking news at any given time. Contact WSIU Radio at 618-453-6101 or email wsiunews@wsiu.org
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