Trial set for Keaau man who allegedly killed his mother


A 61-year-old Keaau man accused of bludgeoning his mother to death on May Day with what authorities described as an instrument “resembling a Native American stone ax” pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto ordered Robert Dean Merrill to appear for trial at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 12.


Merrill was indicted July 8 on a single-count of second-degree murder for the death of his 82-year-old mother, Betty Jean Merrill, whose body was found in her bedroom of the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision home she and her son shared.

According to police, officers responded shortly before 9 a.m. May 1 to a 15th Avenue home. Court documents state the reporting party identified himself as Robert Merrill and told a dispatcher his mother was dead inside the house.

Merrill also allegedly told the dispatcher, “I killed her. I had a reason.”

The body of Betty Jean Merrill was supine on the floor of her bedroom and her face was beaten beyond recognition, according to documents, and the alleged murder weapon, stained with blood, was found on a kitchen counter.

Robert Merrill had fresh blood on his hands, blood spots in his hair and blood stains on the front of his shorts, documents state.

Police allege that while Merrill was being booked at the Hilo station, he said, “I already accepted it. Just take me where I need to go.”

According to documents, two prior calls for medical service were received earlier that morning via Betty Merrill’s Life Alert alarm, but Robert Merrill told responding medics everything was OK and wouldn’t let them inside to check on his mother.

Prosecutors asked that extended terms of imprisonment be considered, because of his mother’s age, if Merrill is convicted. If granted, Merrill faces a potential sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.


Merrill remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $1 million bail.

Email John Burnett at

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