BENNINGTON — A father and son are being held without bail after being accused of trying to frame the son's girlfriend for stealing. The son is also facing charges that he both physically and sexually abused the woman over an extended period of time.
Alson A. Merrow, 28, of Bennington, pleaded not guilty Monday in Vermont Superior Court to aggravated repeated sexual assault, two counts of first-degree aggravated domestic assault, three counts of second-degree aggravated domestic assault, obstructing justice, and false information to police. All but the latter charge are felonies.
Merrow will be held pending a bail hearing. Deputy State's Attorney Alexander Burke argued for the hold because the sex assault charge carries a maximum life sentence, and that Merrow has in the past been convicted of assaulting the same woman.
Attorney Christopher Montgomery, who represented Merrow at the arraignment, said his client was cited over the weekend and turned himself in, and has ties to the community making him a low risk of not showing up to court.
His father, Alson R. Merrow, 58, of Bennington, pleaded not guilty to a felony count of obstructing justice, and misdemeanor count of being a felon convicted of a violent crime in possession of a firearm. He also pleaded not guilty to a third offense of driving under the influence of alcohol, also a felony. He was charged as a habitual offender and held without bail.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer Amanda Thompson, on Jan. 29. Alson A. Merrow contacted police to say his girlfriend had left and there were several items from his home missing. It also appeared as if she had damaged items in the house, such as a washing machine.
Police spoke to a person who lived there who said they saw the woman and her father come in to the home and take some items, among them firearms.
The girlfriend was contacted by Bennington Probation and Parole and told to meet with police, which she did, bringing along the same roommate who implicated her and her father in the theft.
The roommate then told police what he had said was not true. What really happened was that Merrow called his father to come over, then he threw the reportedly stolen items in his father's truck. He also gave his father the rifle. According to the roommate, Merrow trashed his own room and damaged the washer himself.
The roommate said he was told by Merrow to lie to police, and that Merrow's father threatened to kick his head in if he told them different.
The girlfriend spoke to police again on the following day and told them about previous incidents regarding Merrow. She said on one occasion they had been arguing in a vehicle and she told him to stop so she could get out. Her bracelet got caught on a seat belt and Merrow started to drive. She said she was injured badly enough to be taken to the hospital where she, under Merrow's direction, told staff she had fallen off an all-terrain vehicle. The incident led her to apply for a restraining order, which was granted, but she later asked it be terminated.
She described another incident, one that happened in October, where she tried to leave a room and Merrow would not let her. She tried to push past him and he punched her in the nose, drawing blood. She did not seek medical attention for this, but thinks he broke her nose. The blow caused both eyes to blacken, she said. Merrow told her that if she reported the matter, it would ruin his life and he would either hang himself or run.
She said there was another time when he grabbed her by the hair and throat, causing her to fall down.
The roommate police spoke to told police that he had witnessed Merrow grabbing the woman's throat. He also told police he had witnessed Merrow grabbing his son by the hair, making the child cry.
The woman described several incidents of verbal abuse by Merrow, much of it happening while he was pressuring her into sex. She said he would regularly coerce her into sex even when she did not want to. She said she thought this was normal for a relationship and did not think to question it until recently.
Merrow and his father were located on Jan. 30 by police. Alson R. Merrow was processed for DUI and told police his son had given him a rifle to hold on to. He said he is not supposed to have firearms and did not know his son reported it stolen. Police found the rifle in the back of his truck.
Alson A. Merrow admitted to police that he had his father remove a rifle from his home that he then reported stolen. He denied punching the woman in the face, and said she jumped from the vehicle because she was suicidal. He said he told the hospital staff this. He said he only spanks the child when the child misbehaves.