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Trial date set for man suspected of shooting father in Missoula

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Colton Ryan Merritt

Colton Ryan Merritt. 

A trial date was set this week for a Missoula man accused of shooting his father, a former Missoula rural fire chief, in January 2021.

Colton R. Merritt, 24, pleaded not guilty in January 2021 to one count of deliberate homicide. On Tuesday, his trial date was scheduled for Feb. 15, 2023.

Colton called 911 on Jan. 4, 2021 and told dispatchers he shot his father, 58-year-old Daniel C. Merritt, in self-defense, court documents allege. Daniel was a retired Missoula Rural Fire Battalion Chief.

The shooting happened at Colton's house on the 4700 block of Bailey Street, court documents state. As his father entered the room, Colton shot him with a .22 bolt-action rifle, he told dispatchers.

He told investigators he thought his father was armed, but did not see his father with a gun. After shooting his father, Colton said it looked like Daniel Merritt was still alive and he shot him again to put him “out of his misery,” according to charging documents.

He indicated to law enforcement that his father was abusive to him in the past. Investigators interviewed Colton's brothers and Daniel Merritt's other sons. They said they grew up in the same home and that Daniel Merritt was not abusive to them or Colton.

In February 2022, Missoula County District Judge Robert Deschamps ordered Colton to be evaluated at the Montana State Hospital after his attorney filed a notice saying Colton intended to rely on a "mental disease or disorder" defense.

At a status conference hearing earlier this month, Colton's defense attorney informed the court that Colton was found fit to proceed, according to court filings.

He remains in custody at the Missoula jail on a $2 million bail.

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