A Florida man that the sheriff describes as “depraved” has been arrested and jailed on a $150,000 bond.
On Wednesday, William Shannon Lee Merrill, 29, of Interlachen was arrested on a warrant for a litany of assault, battery, and sexual acts committed on a minor.
Detectives who responded to the initial call in November 2021 talked to the teenage victim who described a relationship with Merrill over two years that became increasingly violent, abusive, and involved not only sexual assault but sex trafficking over social media.
The victim told detectives Merrill would contact her through social media formats including Facebook Messenger and that Merrill tattooed his initials and other symbols on her body. He also sold pictures of her on social media and video of them having sex.
The victim told deputies she began having sex with Merrill in 2020. The victim told detectives Merrill made her stay with him and would get upset when she tried to go home, to school, or to medical appointments.
She also told detectives she would tell her parents she was staying with someone else. The victim told detectives Merrill burned her skin on two occasions, leaving scars.
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The child victim also Merrill was also having sex with another teenage girl and would force her to hide in the closet when the other girl was in his home. The victim said she finally left Merrill in September 2021 after he choked her multiple times almost to the point of unconsciousness and pointed a gun at her.
“This is a depraved individual who preys on children and their insecurities,” Putnam County Sheriff H.D. ‘Gator’ DeLoach said. “What this child endured is reprehensible and her situation was becoming much more violent with a predator who did not care for her well-being as demonstrated by his actions. If she had not gotten away when she did, the outcome could have been much different. I also can’t stress enough how important it is for parents and guardians to monitor your child’s social media and know who is contacting them.”
Merrill has a prior arrest for interference in the custody of a minor in a separate case involving a different child.
The state attorney’s office pursued an arrest warrant in June and Merrill was apprehended yesterday afternoon.
Merrill was charged with lewd, lascivious behavior on a victim 12 to 16 years old, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, cruelty toward a child, aggravated assault with a weapon, battery, and three counts of tattoo minor without a guardian or parental consent. He was taken to the Putnam County Jail and held on $150,000 bond.