Palm Coast man pleads no contest in wife's shooting death

Published On: Oct 01 2012 04:40:38 PM EDT
PALM COAST, Fla. -

A Palm Coast man entered a plea of no contest to manslaughter charges in the death of his wife.

William Merrill, 33, was charged with killing his 30-year-old wife, Stefanie Merrill.

The shooting happened Feb. 21 at the couple's Covington Lane home, according to the state attorney's office.

The incident was first reported as an accidental shooting.

Deputies had found 25 firearms at Merrill's home when they responded to the 911 call. That call was made by Merrill, who told dispatch he had just shot his wife, according to the arrest report.

Detectives said Merrill pointed an AK-47 rifle, equipped with a laser, at his wife while she was standing in the master bathroom where the couple's 3-year-old daughter was taking a bath. A 6-year-old son was in school at the time and did not witness the shooting.

Merrill told detectives that he and his wife were talking about the laser light and how bright it was when the gun accidentally fired, striking Stefanie in the chest area, investigators said.

Stefanie Merrill suffered a single shot to the chest and was pronounced dead at the scene. The Medical Examiner ruled the death as a homicide.

Merrill also had a felony conviction in 2007. He was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Merrill entered the plea Monday morning before Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano, and faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.

Sentencing is set for Oct. 29.

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