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Phoenix freeway shootings update: Leslie Merritt Jr. working to clear his name

Posted at 4:54 PM, Jan 20, 2020

PHOENIX — For weeks from August 2015 to September 2015, those driving on Valley highways lived in fear as a shooter taking aim at commuters remained on the loose.

"August 2015, there wasn't a person who didn't hear about this or wasn't aware, and in some cases , even terrified to drive because of the allegations," said Hector Diaz, a local defense attorney not connected to the case.

Under mounting community pressure to catch the shooter, Leslie Merritt Jr. was arrested and charged in the shootings. An arrest hailed on Twitter by Arizona Governor Ducey.

The case leaned on ballistic testing of the bullets recovered from the crime and a gun owned by Merritt. Within seven months of his arrest, Merritt was set free. The charges dropped.

"The assertions made by Mr. Merritt's lawyers is essential that the Department of Public Safety knew that they didn't have the evidence to charge him," said Diaz.

A recently filed document challenges the evidence that was used to arrest Merritt in hopes of clearing his name for good by sealing the records. The closest thing to expungement the State of Arizona offers.

The documents claim DPS fabricated the ballistic evidence and failed to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense attorneys - all to make their theory stick.

"Let's be clear these are the assertions made by his lawyer. The Maricopa County Attorney's office will have an opportunity to review and they're going to file their response," said Diaz.

The filing also says DPS had no evidence to place Merritt at any shooting scene. It goes on to say cell phone tower analysis from the FBI corroborated Merritt's alibi.

The charges against Merritt were dismissed without prejudice which means the state has seven years to refile those charges.

But the hope behind this filing is to clear his name for good. "What he is trying to do is get his life back," said Diaz.

ABC15 has reached out for comment from DPS as well as the County Attorney's office but have not heard back. The County Attorney's Office has ten days to file their response.