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Former MPD detective who appeared in "First 48" dies of COVID-19 complications

Longtime MPD detective and Shelby County D.A.'s Office criminal investigator, W.D. Merritt passed away Sunday.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Longtime Memphis police detective and Shelby County District Attorney’s Office criminal investigator W.D. Merritt passed away Sunday at the age of 56, according to the Shelby County District Attorney's Office.

Family members say Merritt passed away from complications due to COVID-19.

Merritt spent 28 years with the Memphis Police Department, a lot of that time as a homicide investigator and appeared on the A&E show "The First 48".  

He retired from MPD in 2013, then went to work for the District Attorney’s Office in the Criminal Investigation Division.

“W.D.’s incredible investigative skills brought thousands of offenders to justice and brought closure to the victims and their families,” said DA Weirich. “His integrity, hard work, compassion and selflessness were unmatched. As a husband, a father, an investigator and a friend, W.D. always did what was noble and right. We mourn the passing of a true hero and friend.”

While with MPD, Merritt spent 10 years in uniform patrol, five years as a sergeant in the robbery division and 13 years as a sergeant in the homicide unit.

“It is with great sadness that we learned Sunday morning of the passing of retired Sgt. W.D. Merritt,” said Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings. “Sgt. Merritt was an outstanding investigator and a real example of a loyal friend, a loving family man, and a compassionate public servant. There are no words that can fill the void of his loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and all who knew and loved him.”

As a criminal investigator with the DA’s Office, he assisted prosecutors in preparing cases for trial by locating witnesses, serving subpoenas, performing background checks, securing evidence and testifying if needed.

In a news release from the Shelby County District Attorney's Office, it's spelled out, just what kind of detective Merritt was:

In a case several years ago involving the murder of a child, prosecutors needed to get a short but incriminating statement made by the defendant into evidence. W.D., who was still with MPD at the time, and another detective recorded the statement, but the second detective was unavailable to testify. 

Prosecutors’ only option was to call W.D. who was on vacation in Florida with his family. Without a hint of complaint, he got on the first flight to Memphis, stopped by home to change into a suit, and arrived at 201 Poplar where he took the witness stand and told the jury about the defendant’s admission.

The child and her mother got justice “because of W.D. Merritt’s selfless dedication to doing the right thing,” said Eric Christensen, one of two prosecutors who handled the case. “He then jumped on the next flight back to Florida to finish his vacation with his very understanding wife and family."