The destructive house fire that specialists initially concluded as a mishap now seems to have been a cover up for murder.
Donald Merkley, 67-years old, was discovered dead in his home at 3353 Timberlane Road W. in Winter Haven after a fire broke out on January 11. The state fire marshal at first discovered that a space warmer began the fire, yet the decision has now changed after the more youthful of the two suspects, Lasiak approached and fessed up.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office uncovered throughout the end of the week they captured Jerry Johnsey and Byron Lasiak in association for the murder of Donald Merkley back toward the beginning of January at his home in Winter Haven.
Jerry Johnsey, 18 years-old, of Auburndale, was accused of first degree kill, trick to confer burglary, theft with a weapon, messing with proof and fire related crime. He was set up for the Polk County Jail Saturday morning and is being held without safeguard.
Byron Lasiak, 16-years old, of Winter Haven, was accused of first degree kill, intrigue to submit theft, and burglary with a weapon. Lasiak was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center and is being held in the Juvenile Detention Center in Bartow.
According to the investigation, the teens plotted to engage Merkley sexually then extort money from him by threatening to reveal he had sex with a minor.
Their plan went wrong as Lasiak heard a commotion going ahead in the room, and went to perceive what was happening. When he strolled in, police say Lasiak saw Johnsey stifling Merkley with a belt, and then he saw Johnsey strike Merkley in the head with a baseball bat. Johnsey then supposedly revealed to Lasiak that he would execute his whole family in the event that he told anybody what had happened.
The next day, Johnsey returned to the scene, doused the inside of the house and Merkley’s remains with gasoline, and lit it all ablaze to cover up the crime.
Weeks later, Lasiak confessed the crime, which led to their arrest. Lasiak apparently told cops that his friend of four years, Johnsey, started discussing a man he’d met on Craigslist around Christmas break. Johnsey apparently said the Craigslist ad was something to do with “men meeting men.”