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Haley Marie Decker, 18, January 22, 2020, Normal, McLean County, Illinois

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

April 21, 2020

A man has been charged in Haley's murder. James Merritt, 32 of Morehouse, Missouri has been charged with First Degree Murder, armed criminal action and tampering with a motor vehicle.

***History of Haley's story is below the update***

March 4, 2020 Haley was reported missing.

March 26, 2020 An unidentified body was located

She was later identified.

Haley's body was discovered in a field at the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Pulaski County, Illinois. by a man and his kid, when they came up to a suitcase with blond hair sticking out of the luggage. They notified law enforcement immediately. Autopsy report revealed she was struck in the head multiple times with a blunt object.

Merritt was then charged initially with trafficking for sexual exploitation, till further investigation proved enough evidence to charge him with murder. Once they located Haley's phone they tracked it back to Merritt's residence. He admitted to meeting Haley online and said he believed she was a prostitute. He said he took her to several different locations for Haley to be with other men. He said he caught her doing Meth, confronted her and told her to leave his residence.

Evidence in the home found blood stains on the wall in the hallway. Merritt's vehicle found blood stains in the rear that looked as they were cleaned up. Both of their cell phones traced back to both phone being at the same locations on January 25 with Merritt traveling to Illinois in the same area where Haley's body was later found.

Merritt is being held without bond as court continues.


Merritt is being tried in Missouri because the crime occurred at his residence in Missouri

Suspect: James Andrew Merritt - Born 1988


Case Number:

Judge: William Edward Reeves

Merritt was charged with:

Murder 1st Degree { Felony A RSMo: 565.020 }

Armed Criminal Action { Felony Unclassified RSMo: 571.015 }

Tampering With Physical Evidence In Felony Prosecution { Felony E RSMo: 575.100 }

Merritt has already asked for a reduction in bond (initially set at $100,000) and argues that he has no significant criminal history, he is a military veteran and has significant family ties in the county where he lives. Due to the nature and seriousness of the charges and strength of the evidence he poses a flight risk or a danger to the community. Bond reduction was denied.

A change of venue was requested (and later withdrawn). He has pleaded not guilty and waived formal arraignment.


Hearing: June 28, 2021 @ 1PM New Madrid Court House 450 Main Street NEW MADRID MO


Haley Marie Decker, 18 was reported missing in Normal, McLean County, Illinois on January 22, 2020 to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children organization.

March 26, 2020 an unidentified body was located in a field in Pulaski County, Illinois, over 4 hours away. The Illinois State Police has confirmed that her death is ruled a homicide.

Haley Decker

Our deepest condolences to her family and all those who knew and loved her.

May justice be swift.

If you have any information please contact Illinois State Police Zone 7 Investigations at 618-542-2171 and dialing extension 1207.

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