An Okaloosa Man Gets Life Sentence

OKALOOSA COUNTY-- A man who raped and then tried to kill an Okaloosa County woman 12 years ago, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Circuit Judge John T. Brown sentenced 56 year old Phillip Lamar Merriell Wednesday to five concurrent life sentences.

Last month an Okaloosa County jury found Merriell guilty of attempted first degree felony murder, kidnapping and sexual battery with a firearm, aggravated battery and grand theft auto.

Merriell attacked a woman on December 4, 2002, as she left work in Destin, drove her around Okaloosa County at gunpoint for a few hours, then raped her in a secluded area off of Lewis Turner Boulevard.

Afterward Merriell shot the woman in the chest, but she managed to escape from Merriell's truck.

Merriell fled to New Hampshire, where he was arrested a few days later.

He was confined to the state psychiatric hospital in Chattahoochee until recently, when a judge ruled he was competent to stand trial.

Besides the life sentences, Merriell will be classified as a sexual predator.