Man sentenced to year in jail for sexually assaulting young girl

November 27, 2023

Curtis Merrill hears his sentence in Oceana County’s 51st Circuit Court Monday, Nov. 27. Standing in the background is Deputy Bailiff Brendan Neinhuis of the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office.

Man sentenced to year in jail for sexually assaulting young girl

‘Sharing my story was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,’ said the victim.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

HART — A 58-year-old Muskegon man who was convicted by a jury last month of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, was sentenced to one year in jail in Oceana County’s 51st Circuit Court Monday, Nov. 27.

Curtis Warren Merrill was also ordered to five years probation by Judge Susan K. Sniegowski. Merrill will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Judge Sniegowski said Merrill sexually assaulted “a victim who was a young child who was sleeping.” 

The victim, who is now 15 years old, addressed the court Monday with an allocution statement. “I spent the last four years of my life trying to put it back together,” she said as she wept. Her father also came up to the podium to comfort her by putting his arm around her shoulder as she spoke. The girl said that she was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder following the assault. She suffers from flashbacks and nightmares. “Sharing my story was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” she said.

Merrill

Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon asked the court for a prison sentence. Due to “ill-conceived” legislation, the Michigan Department of Corrections recommended a sentence of 42 days for time served, he said. “Forty two days is not enough time for this offense. I am asking the court to consider the full potential consequences under its authority up to and including sending the defendant to prison. I think for the offense of touching a child the way this child was touched, that’s appropriate. The question is: what does the court to do with a man who touches an 11-year-old child? Sending the defendant to prison — I ask the court to consider that.”

Defense attorney Jason Kolkema said his client had never been convicted of a felony and had one misdemeanor OWI conviction many years ago. Kolkema said Merrill has many supporters, several of whom submitted letters to the court, offering their support. “Many of the people who submitted letters are in the audience today.”  

“I see it over and over again in this courtroom that people do things that are out of character. People do things in a very short time span that then changes the trajectory of their lives,” said the judge. “We did have some significant changes in the law over the last couple years, and in some instances, I understand these changes, and in others, I don’t. I think that a criminal sexual conduct involving a child does come with a significant amount of incarceration. In this case with the guidelines being 0-17 months and the requirements of the law, that he court finds it reasonable in this case to sentence Mr. Merrill to 12 months in the Oceana County Jail.”

Judge Sniegowski gave Merrill credit for 42 days served in jail.  

A 12-member jury rendered a guilty verdict after deliberating for 20 minutes, Oct. 19, following a two-day trial.

The sexual assault occurred in Rothbury in 2020. The maximum penalty for a second-degree CSC conviction is 15 years in prison.

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