The Unsolved: Laurie Merritt's case gets fresh eyes
New investigators looking into "difficult" case.
Investigators from Luzerne County say a widely publicized case from 2014 is anything but cold. But unfortunately, it's not any more clear.
Police are taking a fresh look at the death of Laurie Merritt, who died in a fire that was ruled arson.
Laurie Merritt was a well-known and well-liked postal worker in Wilkes-Barre, where she also lived.
Merritt was found dead in the attic of her home on Wyoming Street in Wilkes-Barre following a fire on April 15, 2014.
"Every tax day that's coming again, it reminds all of us that we haven't solved what happened to Laurie Merritt," said Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce.
Sanguedolce told Action 16 Investigates that Merritt's death was at first considered an accident, but that was before a fire marshal determined the fire in the attic was arson.
Case "anything but cold":
The case is anything but cold. Just last year, Sanguedolce sent the case file to fresh eyes.
"We took the Laurie Merritt case to what's called the CIA. It's basically a group of investigators get together, and we meet on difficult cases. It's put together by the state police. We had a number of fire marshals there, a number of investigators, all of our case team. They came out with a list of suggestions, things that we can look further into in order to try to get to the bottom of what happened to Laurie," he said.
An autopsy showed that Laurie Merritt died from breathing in too much smoke. The manner of her death is still undetermined.
One of the facts that troubles investigators most is that Merritt's phone was found right next to her. Yet she didn't call for help.
"I can't even imagine what the family is going through, not having answers. But also, I'd like to say I don't think speed is important; it's getting it right. I'm just hoping we can get it right and get an answer soon," Sanguedolce added.
Merritt family still speaking up:
Kristin Merritt-Zavada is now delivering her mother's message.
"I have to give my mother a voice. I have to. It's not easy for me to do this, but somebody has to," she said.
Merritt-Zavada has never stopped talking about the case, but she admits that sometimes she does lose hope.
There's one thing she wants to hear from investigators looking at the case now.
"If they would finally speak out and call it a murder investigation because they never did that," she said.
DA: too many scenarios:
She says she believes her mother was murdered. That's where the Merritt family and the Luzerne County DA are at odds.
Sanguedolce said there are still too many possible scenarios to say that Laurie Merritt was murdered.
"I think Abraham Maslow said, 'If the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem starts to resemble a nail.' So, we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. Obviously, we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. We've heard everything from accident to suicide to homicide. Sometimes it's not finding what happened; it's finding what did not happen. Can you eliminate options? So, we're still working on eliminating options. It's just been a really difficult case," Sanguedolce said.
That's something everyone involved agrees on. Though difficult, the investigators giving the case a fresh look now hope they can deliver an answer.