Former MPD detective, ‘First 48 Star’ dies from COVID-19

Updated: Jul. 27, 2020 at 10:38 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A former Memphis homicide detective with a reputation for outsmarting the bad guys is the latest victim of COVID-19 in the community.

W.D. Merritt had an uncanny knack for catching killers. Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said he brought thousands of offenders to justice, bringing closure to victims and their families.

He thought he had a mild case of COVID-19. But Sunday night, the deadly virus claimed his life.

Colleagues, stunned by his death, say they’re mourning a true hero.

“Over the night, one of our brothers, William Dwayne Merritt, passed away from COVID-19,” Highland Church of Christ Minister Eric Gentry told his congregation Sunday morning. “Some of you know him as William, some of you know him as Dwayne, some of you know him as W.D. Most of you know him as one of the guys who keeps our children safe on Sunday morning as part of our child safety team.”

Many Memphians may remember Merritt as one of the Memphis police officers featured on A&E’s “The First 48” in 2006 and 2007.

Merrit spent 28 years with MPD, helping solve some of the most high-profile homicides in the city's history, including Lorenzen Wright's death and the Lester Street murders.

MPD Director Mike Rallings, in a statement to WMC Action News 5, said “Sgt. Merritt was an outstanding investigator and a real example of a loyal friend, loving family man and compassionate public servant.”

Merritt retired from MPD in 2013 and joined the Shelby County DA’s office as in investigator. Weirich said, “his integrity, hard work, compassion and selflessness were unmatched.”

Shelby County Prosecutor Eric Christensen recalls a case where a mother and child got justice “because of W.D. Merritt’s selfless dedication to doing the right thing.”

“If W.D. was ever in a room of investigators, it was most likely that he was the best investigator in the room,” said CID Investigator A. J. Kan

Coworker Kenya Smith posted to Facebook: “This one really hurt. There will never be another W.D. Merritt. Please, everyone, wear your mask and take care of yourself.”

His wife Marie said he went to the hospital four days ago with what they thought was a mild case of COVID-19. Merritt quickly took a turn for the worse.

“My sweet Dwayne, has died. I am beyond devastated,” she posted on Sunday.

Tributes are pouring in on social media:

”A neat man I met through ARISE2Read, he touched the lives of La Rose second grade students,”wrote Julie Thompson Abell.

“A beautiful spirit inside and out,” said Omar Malik. “A great loss for our community.”

“This is a man who models what it means to follow after God with your whole heart, and we’re sad he’s gone. But we rejoice knowing that he’s run the race and finished well,” Minister Gentry told the congregation Sunday morning.

Director Rallings added, “There are no words that can fill the void of his loss.”

Merritt was just 56 years old. He leaves behind his wife and two sons.

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