A technical sergeant who pleaded guilty to abducting and molesting four children while assigned to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, has been sentenced to 50 years in prison.
But Tech. Sgt. Michael Merritt, a facility manager with the 319th Missile Squadron, will spend no more than 25 years behind bars due the terms of a pre-trial agreement, which capped the sentence in exchange for his guilty pleas, the Air Force said. Merritt was also reduced to E-1 and ordered to forfeit all pay and allowances, and he will be dishonorably discharged upon his release from prison.
Merritt faced a judge-only general court-martial March 17 and 18 at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., where he pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, sexual abuse, sodomy, assault consummated by a battery, kidnapping and attempted kidnapping, according to an Air Force news release.
The Air Force said the abuse occurred between 2003 and 2013.
Investigators pinpointed Merritt as the sole perpetrator after forensic evidence analyzed by the Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory matched evidence found on some of the children's clothing, according to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
The 13th Field Investigations Squadron at Ramstein initially launched an investigation, after a child came forward in January 2012 saying a man had pulled her into his car and molested her in the Ramstein housing area.
Several children in the Ramstein and Vogelweh housing areas came forward that year alleging kidnapping attempts and molestations.
Investigators spent several months conducting more than 600 interviews and collecting more than 250 forensic samples from potential suspects, according to the release.
Forensic evidence, witness testimonies and corroborated circumstantial evidence helped lead to Merritt’s arrest at F.E. Warren, where he was reassigned in August 2013.
Military authorities ordered Merritt into pretrial confinement in October.
Investigation into Merritt's actions are still ongoing at Ramstein, said Lt. Col. Christopher Ouellette, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 13th Field Investigations Squadron commander. Witnesses and potential victims who have knowledge of alleged assaults by Merritt or other perpetrators should contact AFOSI.