A Fort Wayne man sentenced to 12 years in prison after he broke his divorcing wife’s jaw in a brutal domestic violence assault, in which he also threatened her with a knife, lost his appeal Friday.
The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Gabriel A. Merriweather’s conviction and sentence in Gabriel A. Merriweather v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-2270. An Allen Superior jury convicted Merriweather as charged for attacking his wife, S.S., who had filed for divorce and rebuffed his efforts at reconciliation. She had agreed to let Merriweather live with her and their children until he received money from the estate of his recently deceased father.
Judge Paul Mathias wrote that after S.S. said the couple could not work on their relationship, Merriweather punched her in the face, dragged her by her hair and slammed her head against a refrigerator, chair and cabinet. When she asked to be taken to the hospital, Merriweather grabbed a knife and threatened to kill her.
Ultimately, Merriweather and the children took S.S. to her mother’s house, after which police came and took photos, and S.S. was taken to the hospital, where her broken jaw had to be surgically repaired with metal plates and screws. Merriweather was later convicted as charged and sentenced to six years in prison, enhanced by another six years for being a habitual offender.
Mathias and the COA panel uniformly rejected Merriweather’s appeal, in which he argued that his sentence was inappropriate; that the charging information was so flawed as to constitute fundamental error; that the evidence to support the intimidation count was insufficient; and that the jury was not properly instructed on the unanimity requirement.
The panel noted Merriweather’s rap sheet dates to a 1985 juvenile adjudication for burglary, followed by five felony and eight misdemeanor convictions, including prior felony domestic violence convictions.
“Considering both the brutal nature of Merriweather’s offenses and his poor character, as reflected by his extensive criminal history, we can only conclude that the twelve-year sentence imposed by the trial court was not inappropriate,” Mathias wrote.
“The information charging Merriweather with intimidation did not constitute fundamental error due to duplicity, nor did the trial court fundamentally err in instructing the jury regarding the intimidation charge. Further, the State presented evidence sufficient to support Merriweather’s conviction for Level 5 felony intimidation,” the panel concluded.