Rochester man arrested, charged for 2016 murder of Wisconsin woman

A Rochester man has been arrested and charged in connection to a murder of a Wisconsin woman in 2016. 

Court records show Randall Q. Merrick, 48, has been charged in Buffalo County Circuit Court in Wisconsin with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse, both felony-level crimes. His maximum sentence, if convicted, is life in prison.

According to a criminal complaint, Merrick allegedly murdered Beth Johnson sometime between Dec. 25, 2016, and March 12, 2017, in Buffalo County, relating to an act of domestic abuse. The complaint alleges Merrick hid or buried Johnson's body sometime during that time period.

Johnson, 50, was last seen alive on Dec. 25, 2016, in her home in the Village of Nelson. She and Merrick had dated years earlier, but at the time of her disappearance, they were roommates and Johnson acted as a caregiver to Merrick.

Court records say Johnson's son called the Buffalo County Sheriff's Office on March 12, 2017, to report that he had not seen or heard from his mother since Dec. 25, 2016. Other than Merrick, no one else had reported any communication from Johnson since that day.

Merrick reportedly told Johnson's son that his mother had moved to the Twin Cities with her boyfriend when he called Merrick to ask about his mother.

Approximately two months before Johnson's disappearance, sheriff's deputies were sent to the home for a welfare check after Johnson did not show up for work, according to the complaint. Authorities noticed bruising on both eyes, left upper arm, upper left chest, the lower part on the right side of her face and on Johnson's chin when speaking to her. She did not give the deputy interviewing her many details about how the injuries occurred and was uncooperative as officers attempted to photograph the injuries. A witness later told law enforcement that Johnson came to work toward the end of 2016 with bruises all over her face.

The complaint states that detectives interviewed multiple witnesses between Johnson's disappearance and the filing of the complaint.

In April 2018, a cadaver dog was used to search in and around Johnson's former residence and gave multiple indications that the dog smelled actively decomposing or decomposed human remains. The complaint goes on to say the dog also searched a vehicle and alerted its handler to the scent of human remains.

In July 2018, a witness told police that Merrick spoke to the witness "bawling" and stated he didn't mean to hurt her and that he killed her, the complaint states. Merrick reportedly told another person that authorities would never find Johnson, according to the complaint.

At this time, Johnson's body has yet to be located.