Green Township man convicted of harassing neighbor dies in prison

Steve Merkle (Courtesy Hamilton County Sheriff's Office)
Steve Merkle (Courtesy Hamilton County Sheriff's Office)

CINCINNATI (AP) - A Green Township man who was convicted of harassing his 83-year-old neighbor has died in jail hours before his sentencing.

A Hamilton County judge told the neighbor in court Tuesday that 54-year-old Steve Merkle died of a heart attack in jail overnight, a few hours before the Cincinnati man was to be sentenced on charges of menacing by stalking and violating a protection order.

Court records show Merkle called Virginia Ritter names, made obscene gestures and threatened to kill her and bury her in the yard. Merkle pleaded guilty to the charges July 15 and was convicted July 22.

Ritter could not be reached for comment.

Merkle's lawyer, Jerome Grogran, said his client "felt terrible" about his actions and never intended to harm anyone.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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