Legal expert says freeway shooter case may be 'doomed'

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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Leslie Merritt Jr. is still the prime suspect in a series of crimes that made national headlines. He is the man authorities believe was responsible for a string of shootings along Interstate 10 last summer.

But the case against Merrit appears to have taken a hit after a judge released Merritt from custody Tuesday without bond.

Valley legal expert Dwane Cates explained that Merritt is still facing more than a dozen criminal charges, but there are clear signs that the prosecution's case may be in trouble.

"Nobody has tied him to being present during any of the shootings, and there are some alibi witnesses that he wasn't around, all kinds of things that point to it not being him," Cates said. " One big thing was ballistics, and if they lose ballistics, I think the case is doomed."

So far, no other arrests have been made in connection with the freeway shootings.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Steven Pitt of Scottsdale has consulted on a number of high-profile criminal cases, including the Valley's "Baseline Killer" case and Colorado's JonBenet Ramsey homicide investigation.

Pitt said there can often be a rush to judgment in high-profile cases, and that may have happened here.

 According to Pitt, it's entirely possible that there may be other freeway shooting suspects out there.

"The idea that while Mr. Merritt has been incarcerated, that there have been no projectiles going into cars along I-10 is utter nonsense," said Pitt. "I don't believe that for a second."

A Department of Public Safety official said he can't recall any reports of a vehicle hit by a random bullet along I-10 in 2016.

"Our concern has and always will be public safety. The community was in a constant state of fear over the I-10 shootings for three weeks, including warning signs on the freeway," Daniel Scarpinato, Gov. Doug Ducey's spokesman, said. "The governor is glad we have now gone seven months without shootings, and he will continue to put public safety first.

"With respect to the ongoing case before the court — it is in the hands of the judicial branch, where it will continue to play out, and we are confident the process will be fair," Scarpinato continued.

Merritt is due back in court on May 18.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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