, 2022-07-30 11:00:00,
On a typical morning in the serene cemetery of rural Mt. Pleasant in Sanpete County, a walker or jogger can be found getting in their morning steps by taking laps on the roads that border and cut through the property, which hardly see any motor traffic.
Sitting unassumingly in the A plot of the cemetery is a small headstone that simply reads: “Monte R. Merz, 1911-1965.” Next to that is an identical headstone where Merz’s mother is buried and a sibling’s is nearby. Merz’s mother died three years after her son. For many years, Monte Merz’s grandchildren in Utah were told that he died in a car crash.
But what they just recently learned is that buried in the modest plot is a suspected serial killer and child molester.
And Merz did not perish in any crash. Rather, he died after shooting and killing his fifth wife in California in 1965 and then shooting himself moments later, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
The murder-suicide was the final act of violence in a life filled with brutal crimes, according to the LAPD. In total, police now believe Merz killed two women, a teenage girl and a fetus in California from 1956 through 1965. And based on his behavioral patterns, Los Angeles police detective Rachel Evans said she believes those crimes may just be scratching the surface.
In 2017 — 52 years after his death — Merz was determined to be responsible for the 1960 stabbing death of a 15-year-old girl after a key witness stepped forward to call police after living many decades in fear.
And this year, thanks to the work of a detective who was new to the cold case unit and had never worked on a homicide case before — a woman who spent many hours traveling to Utah trying to piece together the investigation — police determined they have enough evidence to link Merz to the 1956 murder of a pregnant 18-year-old woman in Van Nuys, California.
It had been the oldest unsolved murder in the San Fernando Valley, an area with more than 1.75 million people.
An ‘internal voice’
Evans, who previously was a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, has been with the LAPD for 13 years and became a detective 4½ years ago.
“I just felt like that’s what I needed to do,” she said about her decision to become a police officer. “I don’t know, I just felt this is where I needed to be.”
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