Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division made the announcement. U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick imposed the sentence.
Robert Merritt, 34, was convicted following a jury trial on May 13, 2013, of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and the murders of the family members of a federal witness, Eugene Coleman.
At the direction of convicted drug kingpin Kaboni Savage, Merritt and his cousin, Lamont Lewis, participated in the firebombing of the Coleman family home in retaliation for Coleman’s testimony against Savage. Evidence introduced at trial showed that Merritt threw a gas can with a lit cloth fuse, and then a second gas can, into the occupied Philadelphia row house in the predawn hours of Oct. 9, 2004. Six people, including four children ranging in age from 15 months to 15 years, were killed in the ensuing fire.
Co-defendants Kaboni Savage and Kadida Savage were also convicted at the May 2013 trial of the firebombing. Kaboni Savage was sentenced to death for 12 counts of murder in aid of racketeering. Kidada Savage was sentenced to life in prison. Lamont Lewis, who pleaded guilty before trial, is awaiting sentencing.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the Maple Shade, New Jersey, Police Department. The United States Bureau of Prisons, the United States Marshals Service, and the Philadelphia / Camden High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force also assisted in the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Steve Mellin of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys David E. Troyer and John M. Gallagher of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.