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January 26, 2015

Judge finds Anniston man not guilty due to mental illness in 2013 beating death

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Devonte Raynard Arnold

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2014 4:04 pm | Updated: 4:51 pm, Fri Aug 22, 2014.

An Anniston man on Friday was set to go to a secure medical facility after a local judge found him not guilty of a murder charge due to mental illness.

Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones on Thursday found Devonte Raynard Arnold, 24, not guilty of the charge in the killing of a fellow patient at Regional Medical Center, Ian Keith Merritt of Anniston, in September 2013.

Arnold was arrested at RMC on Sept. 16, 2013, and charged with attempted murder after police said he attacked Merritt, 47, at the hospital. Merritt died from his injuries 10 days later, and Arnold’s charge was upgraded to murder.

Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown ruled the cause of death as blunt-force trauma. Court records state Arnold used his hands and feet in the attack on Merritt.

Jones’ ruling states that court-ordered mental evaluations show Arnold has had a serious mental illness since he was about 19 years old. Her ruling states that Arnold is, and was at the time of the attack, suffering from schizophrenia. Court records state Arnold was in the psychiatric unit at RMC for treatment when the incident occurred.  

Based on those mental evaluations, Jones ruled that Arnold could not understand the wrongness of his actions, and he did not have the ability to “understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him” and is a threat to himself and others.

Jones ordered Arnold committed to the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation at the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility in Tuscaloosa. He’s to be released only after a hearing and court order, court records show.

Arnold was in the Calhoun County Jail on Friday afternoon waiting to be taken to the medical facility.

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