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AF releases photo of convicted child molester as investigation continues

Air Force officials have released this photograph of convicted child molester Michael L. Merritt in an effort to find other potential victims or witnesses to his crimes. The former Ramstein Air Base airman was sentenced March 18, 2014, to 25 years in a federal prison for acts committed in Germany and the United States.

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Air Force officials released a photo of convicted child molester Michael L. Merritt on Tuesday and said they are continuing their investigation into the former Ramstein Air Base airman.

Merritt, who had served as a technical sergeant, was sentenced last week to 25 years in federal prison for crimes he committed against victims in Germany and the United States.

The Air Force is asking witnesses and potential victims who may have knowledge of crimes committed by Merritt or other perpetrators to contact the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Individuals may call the OSI field office on Ramstein at: DSN 314-480-5409, 314-480-5409; civilian (+49) (0)637-147-5779, (+49) (0)637-147-5779; or email afosi.det515.office@us.af.mil.

Merritt pleaded guilty to 22 military charges and specifications, including sexual assault, kidnapping and sodomy. His pleas covered crimes against four girls, ages 5 to 14, from 2003 through 2013, according to information from the Air Force. OSI investigated a number of allegations involving U.S. military dependent children and one German child, both on and off base, Air Force officials said in a written statement. Merritt pleaded guilty only to offenses involving U.S. military dependent children, officials said.

Iris Weinbrandt, a German prosecutor from Zweibrücken, which has jurisdiction for off-base crimes occurring in the Ramstein area, said Tuesday that her office had no incidents on file involving Merritt.

The last on-base incident involving Merritt at either Ramstein air base or Vogelweh was reported on March 27, 2013, the Air Force said.

Merritt, according to his record of trial, will have to register as a sex offender.

Most of the charges against Merritt stemmed from offenses he committed while he was at Ramstein, an assignment that began in October 2006 and ended in August 2013, when he was transferred to F.E. Warren Air Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., officials said.

He was sentenced to 50 years in prison by the military judge, Lt. Col. Grant Katz, but due to the terms of a pretrial agreement, his confinement will not exceed 25 years, according to the Air Force.

Merritt was to be transported to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to serve his time, Air Force officials said last week.

Merritt’s punishment also included reduction to airman basic, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge.

Air Force officials said Merritt’s age is protected by the Privacy Act and cannot be released without consent.

Marcus Kloeckner contributed to this report.
svan.jennifer@stripes.com

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