Police say man tied to 2 neighborhood murders

- Jimmy Merritt is sitting at the Orange County Jail charged with first degree murder with a firearm and economic crimes after what neighbors say is a bizarre series of events. 

"I've got chills right now. When you talk to someone and you think they're such a nice guy you don't expect something like that. and then it's so close to your house.  It's a double murder!  It's like what made you do this?  Why?" asked Melanie Clements.  

First friends and neighbors realized they hadn't seen the man or heard from the man who lives at 3008 Lauressa Lane in at least two weeks. 

"He was always on oxygen, so we wondered where was he had to be on oxygen. His car was missing,"  said Clements. 

Then Friday morning, the man across the street,  67-year-old Benny Hallmark, was found murdered in his living room. 

"I can't believe mr. benny is gone," said neighbor Patti Singleton.

Investigators say they quickly named Merritt, 37, as a suspect in Benny's murder and discovered he'd been forging checks out of Benny's bank account.  Then Tuesday, detectives say Merritt admitted to a witness he had killed another person at the home across the street on Lauressa Lane. 

Police say they got a search warrant and found a badly decomposing body in the garage piled under wood and tools.

"Right when the opened the garage, you could smell it," said Singleton. 

Larry Vaughn is Benny's brother.  He's heartbroken, saying he just lost two family members.

"The guy he killed over here, that's my first cousin. He killed my cousin first and then killed my Benny.  I think Benny got too close, because Benny, Jimmy would talk to Benny every day. I think he was trying to throw him off," said Vaughn. 

Right now, OPD is not releasing the identity of the victim who's body that was found in that garage.   

Vaughn says his brother was had known Merritt for about a month and had given him rides when his car broke down.  He also says Benny tried getting Merritt to go to church to become a Christian.  

 

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