Husband charged in wife's shooting death

32-year-old charged with manslaughter

Published On: Feb 23 2012 05:23:31 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 23 2012 06:57:03 PM EST
PALM COAST, Fla. -

Flagler County detectives have formally charged and arrested a Palm Coast man in the shooting death of his wife Tuesday morning in their home.

William Merrill, 32, was arrested at the Flagler County Sheriff's Office just before 4:30 p.m. on charges of manslaughter with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. His bail was set at $200,000.

Deputies said they recovered 25 firearms at the home Tuesday when they responded about 9:15 a.m. to a report of a gunshot victim at 94 Covington Lane.

Detectives said Merrill pointed an AK 47 rifle, equipped with a laser, at his 30-year-old wife, Stefanie Merrill, while she was standing in the master bathroom where the couple's 3-year-old daughter was taking a bath. A 6-year-old son was in school at the time and did not witness the shooting.

Merrill told detectives that he and his wife were talking about the laser light and how bright it was when the gun accidentally fired, striking Stefanie in the chest area, investigators said.

An autopsy completed Thursday morning revealed the mother of two died from the single shot. The Medical Examiner ruled the death as a homicide.

The children have been in the custody of their grandparents, who live in Palm Coast, since the shooting.

"This man's reckless and careless handling of a firearm has resulted in the death of a wife and mother and has destroyed his family," Sheriff Donald Fleming said in a news release. "Our thoughts are with those children and Mrs. Merrill's family in light of this senseless tragedy."

Flagler County detectives worked closely with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state attorney's office to investigate the killing.