Sunday, May 17, 2009

Minister's son, child rapist, freed,0,2598516.story
Child rapist is set free after 9 years -- his mother collapses, dies during hearing
By Rene Stutzman
Sentinel Staff Writer
3:42 PM EDT, May 15, 2009

A judge today freed a 26-year-old minister's son who had been locked up nine years for raping children, many of them in his father's church.Kareem Merthie plans to move back to Sanford, enroll in Seminole Community college and study music and business, according to court records.Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton Jr. ordered his release this morning after hearing the testimony of two medical experts. Both agreed that Merthie no longer meets the legal definition of an active sexually violent predator.During today's hearing, Merthie's mother, Willie Ruth Merthie, 58, collapsed in the hallway outside the courtroom.She had been sitting by herself in the back of the courtroom then walked out. She went to the ladies room then emerged and sat down on a hallway bench . She never got up.Her husband, the Rev. Ronald Merthie, was in the courtroom at the time of her collapse. A deputy tried to block him from leaving to give rescue personnel room to operate."That's my wife," Rev. Merthie said twice.He made it to her side. By then, she was on the floor.Deputies had rushed to aid her. They tried to revive her with a defibrillator, yanked from its box down the hall. Paramedics then arrived, and rescuers performed CPR as they wheeled her through the downstairs lobby and out to the ambulance.She was taken to Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, where she was pronounced dead.Back upstairs, a deputy passed a note to the judge, and he temporarily stopped the hearing. It resumed a few minutes later.It's not clear whether Merthie knew before he left the building that his mother had died.Merthie is a "Jimmy Ryce" offender. That's the name given to sex offenders who served their time but are then locked up in a state mental hospital in Arcadia because they are still dangerous.Merthie wound up there because he preyed on children as young as age four, according to court records. He raped many of them at his father's Sanford church, New Life Word Center. In three lawsuits, the victims' families alleged that Merthie took them to the bathroom or up a set of stairs to a dark, remote part of the church.Merthie admitted to abusing 20 children.According to court records, the rapes began as early as 1992. Law enforcement authorities did not get involved until 1998, when one of the victim's mothers went to Sanford police. Merthie, then age 16, was arrested in 1999. He was locked up at a juvenile facility in 2000 after pleading no contest to victimizing two boys.But that did not end the abuse. While in a Jacksonville facility for underage sex offenders, he sexually abused a 15-year-old boy, according to court records.Mental health experts for both the state and defense agreed that Merthie is a very different person than when he was admitted to the state hospital in Arcadia, that he's undergone intense therapy, that he's been cooperative and that there's nothing more the mental hospital can do.
Copyright © 2009, Orlando Sentinel

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darius said...
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