A man arrested last week in the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old woman at a DeKalb County bus stop is suspected in three sexual assault cases in the county dating back to last year, police said Monday.
Officials said during an afternoon press conference at DeKalb police headquarters that Christopher Merritt, 18, of Lithonia was arrested without incident Friday afternoon at an abandoned apartment in the 5800 block of Trent Walk Drive in Lithonia. DeKalb police said Merritt on Nov. 23 shot and killed Marcaysia Dawkins, a 2014 Lithonia High School graduate, while she waited at a bus stop near her home.
“We have no indication that he knew the victim,” said DeKalb interim Police Chief James Conroy, who added that police turned over warrants on Merritt to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Squad, which later lfound and arrested Merritt.
DeKalb Police Assistant Chief Mike Yarbrough said witness statements and several pieces of evidence, including video surveillance, led to authorities identifying Merritt as a suspect in Dawkins’ death. Further investigation, he added, connected the man to sexual assault cases in DeKalb.
“At this point, we know that we’ve got at least three separate cases of sexual assault,” Yarbrough added, saying all three victims were from DeKalb, with the incidents spanning as far back as last year. He also said that investigators do not believe that he knew the victims.
Yarbrough said Merritt had not been on authorities’ radar on those cases until the shooting death investigation. “We do have some separation of distance and location that came into play, and we were able to identify a way to link those together through the evidence,” he said, but would not elaborate on the connection between the cases.
Investigators are looking into other outstanding rape and sexual assault cases to see if there is a connection.
In addition to murder, Merritt as of Monday afternoon had been charged with three counts of rape, three counts of armed robbery, one count of aggravated sodomy, one count of aggravated assault, one count of aggravated sexual battery and three counts of false imprisonment. The robbery charges are inclusive of the rape and sexual assault investigations.
In all, Yarbrough said, the charges involve at least four victims.
“This tragic [shooting] led to the death of a young woman who was waiting on the bus to go to work in broad daylight at 10 in the morning,” Yarbrough said. “I hope what we’ve done here through the diligent effort of our detectives and investigators throughout, that we’ve been able to bring some resolution and some comfort to the families and the victims of these crimes.”