On Wednesday afternoon, December 20, 2017, Eldon “Ollie” Ault, Jr., d/o/b 11-20-1943, of Forsyth, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on charges of murder in the second degree and armed criminal action, in the Circuit Court of Taney County. Christian County Judge Laura Johnson accepted the guilty plea and sentenced Ault to thirty (30) years for murder in the second degree and twenty (20) years for armed criminal action, pursuant to Ault’s plea agreement with the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office.

Ault had been facing a charge of first degree murder, before the charge was amended to second degree murder for purposes of finalizing a plea agreement. According to the plea agreement, Ault’s sentences are to run concurrently with one another. Ault entered an Alford plea of guilty – meaning that he was admitting that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove his guilt, however, not requiring that he formally admit responsibility for the crimes.

At just after 5:00 a.m. the morning of March 24, 2017, Taney County 9-1-1 received a call for service from defendant at Rolling Meadows Road, in a mobile home community just outside Forsyth, in Taney County, Missouri. Ault lived at that mobile home with his ex-wife, Dianna Merritt. Officers and emergency responders made contact with defendant, Eldon Ault, at the home, and found the body of Dianna Merritt in bed. It was apparent to officers and medical personnel that Dianna Merritt had died from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Ault explained to officers that he and Merritt were sleeping in the bed, and that he had his pistol under his pillow, and that he was awakened by the sound of his pistol firing. It was at that time, Ault told officers, that he found Merritt had been shot. Ault also explained that Merritt had packed-up her belongings to move out that day, so that she could live with her close friend who was suffering from a terminal illness. Investigators did, in fact, find that Merritt’s car was packed, indicating an intention to move out.

During an interview at the Taney County Sheriff’s Office, Ault stated that he must have been dreaming and sleep-walking when – or if – he fired the pistol, killing Merritt. Ault denied any memory of killing Merritt.

Detectives compared Ault’s statements to the positioning of Merritt’s body and disputed the angle at which Ault claimed to have accidentally fired the gun. In addition, detectives found Ault’s belongings in a different bedroom of the home, indicating that Ault would commonly sleep in the bedroom other than where Merritt was found. Items that led detectives to this conclusion included Ault’s breathing machine used for night time breathing treatments, as well as a holster for the pistol used to shoot Merritt. Phone records later showed that Ault’s cell phone was used to place a call to Ault’s brother at about 4:25 a.m. – over thirty minutes before Ault’s call to 9-1-1.

“The fact that this murder case was able to be resolved in less than twelve (12) months is a testament to the solid work of the detectives with the Taney County Sheriff’s Office,” said Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell.

Murder in the second degree carries a maximum penalty of thirty (30) years or life imprisonment – with the possibility of parole. Armed criminal action carries a minimum sentence of three (3) years in prison, with no maximum.