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Fischer (Fatal Hit-and-Run) and Merrill (Wife-Shooting) Plead Not Guilty in Absentia

| March 20, 2012

Getting acquainted: Flagler County Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano meets Russ Bausch (center), an assistant state attorney in the 18th Judicial Circuit, with Laura Moody at his side. Bausch will be prosecuting the Jamesine Fischer case. (© FlaglerLive)

It was an anticlimactic pair of arraignments in Flagler County Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano’s courtroom this morning.

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William Carson Merrill and Jamesine Fischer, the county’s highest-profile suspects at the moment, pleaded not guilty to the charges they’re facing, but without appearing in court. They wrote in their plea: Merill from the Flagler County jail, where he remains on $200,000 bond since Feb. 23; Fischer from her home on Freeland Lane in Palm Coast.

Fischer, who is married to Flagler County School Board member John Fischer, faces a count of leaving the scene of an accident with a death involved, a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Fischer was driving her PT Cruiser in Palm Coast’s C Section, on Columbia Lane, the evening of Nov. 10, when she struck 76-year-old Francoise Pecqueur as Pecqueur walked her tiny poodle, Molly.

Pecqueur, who never regained consciousness after the strike, died 36 hours later. Fischer never called authorities that evening, even though she got out of her car at the scene of the accident and told several other people there, including paramedics, that Pecqueur had fallen. Fischer claimed to authorities that she thought she hit a dog.

Her husband John called Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming either that evening, within a half hour of the strike, or 12 hours later (the sheriff has provided conflicting accounts). But the Fischers only called the non-emergency line at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office almost 12 hours after the accident, and only to report striking a dog.

Earlier this month Gov. Rick Scott, complying with a request from State Attorney R.J. Larizza, ordered the prosecution of the case moved out of Larizza’s office and to the 18th Judicial Circuit. Larizza did not want to continue prosecuting the case because of possibilities of a conflict of interest between his office and Fleming’s. The fact that Fleming is a witness in the case is not necessarily the problem: local cops are witnesses in the State Attorney’s cases routinely. But Fleming’s conflicting accounts of his phone calls to and from Fischer created problems for Larizza, who could have been perceived as either protecting or targeting Fleming in an election year for both. The court proceedings of the case, however, have not been moved.

Today’s guilty plea was a chance for Russ Bausch, an assistant state attorney in the 18th Judicial Circuit, to introduce himself to Zambrano. The two held a brief sidebar and shook hands after the plea, as Pecqueur’s only daughter, Catherine Vyvyan, and Vyvyan’s husband Richard, sat and watched from the first row.

Moments later the judge similarly accepted a written plea in the Merrill case. Merrill shot his wife, Stefanie, after pointing an AK-47 at her in their Covington Lane home and pulling the trigger, on Feb. 21, while the couple’s 3-year-old daughter was in the bath. Miller told authorities he thought the gun was not loaded. He faces a manslaughter charge, and a charge of illegally possessing a firearm. Merill is a previously convicted felon. Police recovered 20 firearms at his home. It’s not clear if Merrill also pleaded guilty to the felony-possession charge.

The rest of Zambrano’s docket was routine.

13 Responses for “Fischer (Fatal Hit-and-Run) and Merrill (Wife-Shooting) Plead Not Guilty in Absentia”

  1. BeTheAdult says:

    How can that woman sleep at night?

  2. Kip Durocher says:

    “He faces a manslaughter charge, and a charge of illegally possessing a firearm.”

    Posessing a firearm is a felony, he should be charged with felony murder.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    If that was one of us, sure we would have forced to be present in the court room, in Fischer case, other that confortably seating at home.
    The Fed Department of Justice along with the FBI, are investigating the shooting of the teen in Sanford now, goven the miss handling of justice there.
    We need also the Fed Justice Department and the FBI here, to re-open and investigate the 2006 Henderson family labeled “murder-suicide” case and the hits and runs of Mr. Taylor, Ms. Francoise Pecqueur and others in this county.

    • justanopinion says:

      So glad you mentioned the Henderson family. Anybody that knew Kevin know he would not be capable of such an act. I was very suprized at how fast it was labeled ”murder suicide” and that’s it, investigation over just like that. It needs to be reopened and investigated a little more deeply and bring someone to justice for there crime.

    • Pam says:

      To Palmcoaster. “If that was one of us” we would have been behind bars the next day and our car impounded for the obvious evidence. This type of unequal treatment of citizens by the sheriff’s dept contributes to the belief that its who you know and they will take care of their own. The Sheriff should resign now to save what is left of the Dept’s image.

  4. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    “If that was one of us”… give it a rest already. She’s getting the exact same treatment as any other individual would charged with this crime. In fact, I think the argument can more accurately be made that had she been anyone else, other than the wife of a politician, she may not have even faced charges in the first place.

    By the way, when she’s acquitted of this charge, and she will be, I suppose it will be because the jury decided the wife of a school board member deserves special treatment? Couldn’t possibly be that an objective reading of the statute, shows that Mrs Fischer’s actions, even if 100% believed as alleged, don’t rise to the definition of the crime.

    • Pam says:

      To Johnny Taxpayer. Think about it! “she told others she thought the lady fell down” Ya right. “She thought she may have hit the little dog” ya right! “She didnt know she his anything till she got to an neighbors house and saw the broken windshield” Gimme a breaak! Didnt she notice it while driving?? Then she said “she may have hit an animal” All this deception constitutes “leaving the scene”, a felony for most of us, Jail time! I’m sure Mrs. Fischer will continue her fabricated story and will recieve some sort of special dispensation that you or I would never get.

  5. says:

    Fischer is not a high profile case , i do not understand how a school board member or any part of his or her’s family can be considered a high profile case orhigh profile individuals, please educated me.

  6. Honest Abe says:

    Kip, if they charged him with “felony” murder (aren’t they all) and lost at trial which is certainly a possibility given other high profile losses in this state, he walks on just the gun possession charge. At least by charging the crime they know (or should know) they will get a conviction on, he will do the most time possible. Now, if they let him plea to something less than manslaughter, that would be a shame.

    • umm says:

      Hmm.. kind of like that little case in Orlando where there was a certain Anthony they tried to pin a first-degree murder charge on and instead only gets convicted of lying to police.

  7. tim says:


    • Emilie Romanet says:

      No she did not care , she shop at Publix at Palm Harbor Palm Coast Parkway where Francoise was working before as cashier . Everyone knows Mrs. Fischer face . Acting like nothing happened . Everytime she is in the store , or her husband John Fischer . All my co-workers calls me .. But I know them while they are in the store

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