Missoula man pleads not guilty to shooting, killing father

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Missoula man has pleaded not guilty to allegations he shot and killed his father earlier this month.

Colton Ryan Merritt, 22, was arraigned on a deliberate homicide charge Tuesday before District Judge Robert Deschamps, the Missoulian reported.

Merritt is charged with killing Daniel Merritt, 57, on Jan. 3. Merritt called 911 the next day to report the shooting, which he told investigators was done in self-defense as his father threatened to break into his room and kill him.

Merritt said he thought he fired 19 shots with a bolt-action rifle, including one he fired to put him “out of his misery," court records said.

Merritt told investigators his father had been abusive to him in the past. Investigators interviewed two of Merritt's brothers and another son of Daniel Merritt, who said they grew up in the same home and that Daniel Merritt was not abusive to them or Colton Merritt, court records said.

Deschamps denied a request for Merritt to be screened for pretrial release. Public defender Jeremie Marrow reserved the right to seek a reduction in Merritt's $2 million bail at a later date.

Merritt's next court date is set for March 23.