A frantic voice said: “I never leave it loaded!”
That’s what William Carson Merrill, who was charged with manslaughter for shooting his wife with an AK-47 Feb. 21 at their home on Covington Lane, told the 911 operator the morning of the incident.
The operator talked Merrill, 32, through some basic first aid while the medical personnel were on their way. The operator also asked where the gun was now, to make sure it wasn’t within reach of the 3-year-old in the bathtub. (Click here for the story: "Toddler witnesses fatal shot.")
He said he pulled the gun out of the closet, accidentally shot his wife, Stefanie Merrill, 30, in the chest, and that the gun was already safely back in the closet.
One neighbor is heartbroken over the tragedy, which she believes was a “careless” accident — with no malice.
“We live around the corner from where the Merrills lived,” Linda Fonzo wrote via email. “We have two dogs and talked to Carson whenever we saw him while we were walking our dogs. They had Bob Barker, who is an English bulldog. I first met Stefanie the day they moved in, and Bob Barker got loose and my husband and I were out walking our dogs. He looks vicious but is really a sweet, playful dog.
“Carson later put up an electronic fence for Bob Barker and we would stop and talk with Carson, and the dogs would play when we went by. I remember seeing Stefanie on the tire swing with her daughter right after they put it up and Carson was pushing the swing.
“Carson seemed like a very nice and caring father and person. We never saw any angry words or anything between them. …
Fonzo continued: “This is a sad, terrible tragedy for all of them. For sure, he was careless and shouldn't have had firearms in the house if he was a convicted felon. Our dogs now look for Bob Barker any time we walk past the house. … We often saw Stefanie outside on their porch and waved at her. We are all saddened by this terrible accident.”