MARION COUNTY, FL – On November 7, 2021, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Eric Thanal Lutterloah, 52, and the victim, Cory Merchant, 35, were involved in a physical altercation while housed at the Marion County Jail. The incident took place after lockdown, when Lutterloah was in his assigned bunk and the victim was talking with other inmates.
According to authorities, Lutterloah confronted Merchant about talking loudly and an argument ensued. Lutterloah pushed the victim and struck him several times, causing Merchant to fall to the cement floor, where he apparently struck his head and became unconscious. Detention deputies entered the area to render aid to Merchant and he was transported to the hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries on November 13, 2021.
Lutterloah was detained and interviewed about the incident and stated he was awoken by Merchant talking and laughing with other inmates. He stated he was agitated and continually told the victim to leave the area, but the victim refused to do so. Lutterloah then stated the physical altercation began, during which he punched Merchant, rendering him unconscious. Video evidence and eyewitness statements corroborated Lutterloah’s account of the incident.
On November 30, 2021, Major Crimes Detectives arrested Lutterloah for Manslaughter. At the time of the offense, Lutterloah was being held without bond at the Marion County Jail for the charges of armed kidnapping, sexual battery, two counts of failure to comply with sex offender reporting requirements, forgery, and giving a false report of a crime.
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Merchant was in jail on three charges from incidents which took place between 2014 and 2018, lewd and lascivious battery, unlawful sexual activity with a minor, and lewd and lascivious exhibition. Merchant had plead not guilty to all three.