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Charges to Be Dismissed in Arizona Freeway Shooting Case

by The Associated Press /
Arizona Department of Public Safety officers stand near a tractor trailer shortly after it was shot near 67th Ave and I-10, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015 in Phoenix. Numerous shootings of vehicles along I-10 over the past two weeks have investigators working around the clock to find a suspect in a spate of recent Phoenix freeway shootings that have rattled nerves and heightened fears of a possible serial shooter.
Arizona Department of Public Safety officers stand near a tractor trailer shortly after it was shot near 67th Ave and I-10, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015 in Phoenix. Numerous shootings of vehicles along I-10 over the past two weeks have investigators working around the clock to find a suspect in a spate of recent Phoenix freeway shootings that have rattled nerves and heightened fears of a possible serial shooter.AP

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PHOENIX — All charges against a man suspected in freeway shootings that rattled Phoenix last year will be dismissed, prosecutors said Friday.

Jerry Cobb, spokesman for Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, said that the office filed a motion to dismiss all charges without prejudice against Leslie Merritt Jr.

"In conjunction with (the Department of Public Safety), we have identified additional forensic investigation that needs to be completed in order for the case to proceed," Cobb said.

This action will allow them "the necessary time" to file charges again, Cobb added. He declined to comment further.

Jason Lamm, a defense attorney representing Merritt, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

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Merritt was released from jail Tuesday after a judge reduced his bond to zero. He was allowed to return home under electronic monitoring.

Defense attorneys have said ballistic tests cast doubt on authorities' claims that he was behind four of the freeway shootings.

The shootings caused panic on Phoenix-area freeways, where 11 vehicles were hit in August and September of 2015. The head of the Department of Public Safety said the shootings were the work of a domestic terrorist, and authorities heightened patrols and surveillance in pursuit of a suspect.

Detectives took Merritt into custody Sept. 18, prompting Gov. Doug Ducey to declare, "We got him!" on Twitter five minutes after the arrest.

In court the next day, Merritt adamantly denied shooting any cars, telling the judge, "I'm the wrong guy."

He pleaded not guilty to drive-by shooting, aggravated assault and other charges.

His lawyers immediately began raising questions about the evidence, citing ballistics information and phone records they say provided an alibi for their client.

They also pointed to road rage shootings that happened on Phoenix-area freeways after Merritt was arrested, saying the cases were proof that the culprit was still out there.

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