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Jimmy Gary Merritt mugshot

Authorities find badly decomposed body in man’s backyard while arresting him for an unrelated homicide: Cops

While at a suspect’s property to arrest him on homicide charges, Orlando officer made a grisly discovery in the man’s backyard.

Orlando Sentinel reports that Orlando police arrested Jimmy Gary Merritt, 37, on Tuesday after an investigation involving the cashed check of a deceased person reportedly traced back to him. According to police reports, the suspect tried without success to cash two additional checks that belonged to deceased victime, Benny Hallmark, 37.

Authorities found Hallmark’s lifeless body inside his home off of Lauressa Lane, in his recliner. He was shot to death with a firearm, according to police. Merritt lived next door to Hallmark, around 200 feet away, but it’s unclear if they actually knew each other.

While investigating Hallmark’s death, authorities learned from a witness that Merritt apparently said he buried another body in his backyard. After obtaining a search, officers waited at Merritt’s home and arrested him on an unrelated outstanding warrant.

While searching the suspect’s backyard, officers found a “badly decomposed” body buried under wood and tools. The police report stated the body was wrapped in blankets and plastic. So far, authorities haven’t identified the body or the cause of death.

Meanwhile, officers also found a gun inside Merritt’s home, allegedly used to kill Hallmark.

Authorities arrested and charged Merritt with first-degree murder for Hallmark’s death. Additional charges may follow once a medical examiner determines the cause of death of the body found in Merritt’s yard.

The suspect has a long history prior criminal charges, including multiple drug offenses, aggravated battery, possession of a weapon by a felon, and aggravated assault.

The investigation is ongoing. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

[Feature Photo: Orlando Sheriff’s Office]