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William Lord Merrill jailed, held on $500,000 bond for child porn charges

Attorney Daniel O’Neil looks toward the family of William Lord Merrill as Merrill via TV during his arraignment Tuesday morning. Merrill, a former CMU education professor, is charged with three felonies related to child pornography. (Victoria Zegler/Photo Editor)

After staying more than a week at the psychiatric ward at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot, former CMU professor William Lord Merrill was arraigned in Isabella County Trial Court after turning himself into CMU Police Tuesday morning.

William Lord Merrill

Isabella County Judge William Rush ordered Merrill, 58, to be held at the Isabella County Jail on $500,000 cash/surety bond after being charged with three felonies: manufacturing child sexually abusive material, distributing or promoting child sexually abusive material and using a computer to commit a crime. He is also charged with one misdemeanor count of possession of a switchblade.

As part of the bond, Merrill is not allowed to possess weapons, not allowed to use computers or other electronic equipment or be in contact with anyone under the age of 18.

Merrill appeared before Rush at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday via TV from the Isabella County Jail.

Merrill’s attorney, Daniel O’Neil, said Merrill is not a flight risk or a suicide risk, so he asked the judge to lower the bond. However, Isabella County Prosecutor Risa Scully told Rush that Merrill purchased a shotgun and contemplated suicide on Nov. 5, before family convinced him to go to the psychiatric ward at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot.

On Nov. 5, a Central Michigan University IT worker found three videos of child pornography on Merrill’s computer, according to a court affidavit.

After Merrill admitted to police that he downloaded the videos, he said there was no additional child pornography videos on his work computer, documents said.

Police then served a search warrant on his office and home, finding 30 CDs, including one disc that had more than 10,000 files with most appearing to be pictures of child sexually abusive activity. More data is being reviewed, according to the documents.

“It depicts hundreds and hundreds of images of child pornography dating back years,” Scully said.

O’Neil told Central Michigan Life he thought the bond is “ridiculous” and that although there are victims in child pornography cases, he said, under Michigan law, there were no victims, because nobody was in physical harm.

“A lot of these images are 20 to 30 years old,” he said. “Many were made out of the country.”

Merrill is not suicidal and stayed at the psychiatric ward at the request of doctors, O’Neil said.

CMU released a statement Monday, saying Merrill resigned as a professor in the teaching education and professional development department. He had worked at CMU since 1987.

University officials said Merrill, whose office is located on the fourth floor of the EHS Building, is not believed to have had any contact with children in the first-floor Child Development and Learning Laboratory.

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