Woman pleads guilty in kidnapping, killing near airport

Published On: Nov 21 2012 01:04:14 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 21 2012 01:07:38 PM EST

Shanda Merritt appears in court on murder charges.


A Jacksonville woman pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to the kidnapping and murder of an 83-year-old man leaving Jacksonville International Airport in 2010.

Shanda Merritt pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping with a firearm, and armed robbery in the killing of Charles Soukup (pictured below).

She will be sentenced Dec. 21 and faces life in prison.

Merritt was also sentenced to life in prison Wednesday morning in the attempted murder of Charles Davis, her ex-boyfriend. Davis was shot right after Soukup's murder.

"It is the sincere hope of the state attorney's office that Ms. Merritt's life sentence and pleas of guilty today will help heal all of the families affected by her horrific decisions and actions," Assistant State Attorney John Guy said.

Last week, 19-year-old Raymond Austin Jr. was found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping with a firearm, and armed robbery.

Austin, Merritt, Corey Harrington and Marquavious Avery abducted Soukup from the airport, killing him and stealing his rental car. Soukup's body was found near the airport.

After the murder, prosecutors said Austin and Merritt used the stolen car in the attempted murder of Merritt’s ex-boyfriend.

A total of six people were arrested in connection with Soukup’s death.

Austin and Merritt were convicted earlier this year for the attempted murder of Davis. Austin was sentenced to 45 years in prison in that case.

Austin also faces life in prison for Soukup’s murder when he's sentenced next month.


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