Man who disappeared during the 2021 Texas freeze found buried in his backyard

A woman wanted in the 2021 slaying of her landlord whose "decomposing skeleton" was found hidden under stairs in the backyard of his Texas home is now in custody on a murder charge, police said.

Pamela Ann Merritt, 43, also faces a theft charge in connection to the fatal stabbing of 78-year-old Colin Kerdachi, the Houston Police Department reported Tuesday.

Kerdachi was reported missing by friends on Feb. 20, 2021, police said, following a major winter storm that slammed the state leaving 246 people dead across 77 counties, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

According to a criminal complaint, homicide detectives believe Merritt killed Kerdachi with a knife on or about Feb. 15, 2021.

When he disappeared, a homicide detective wrote in the complaint, Kerdachi was living in the upstairs portion of a home he rented out on West Clay Street in the city's Fourth Ward downtown neighborhood.

Police issued a warrant for Merritt on May 30, and she had been on the lam for nearly three months until her Friday arrest. Police did not disclose details about the arrest including what led them to her.

Pamela Merrit, 43, wanted in connection to the February 2021 death of her landlord whose body was found under stairs in the backyard of his home on Clay Street in Houston was arrested over the weekend on theft and murder charges, the Houston Police Department said.
Pamela Merrit, 43, wanted in connection to the February 2021 death of her landlord whose body was found under stairs in the backyard of his home on Clay Street in Houston was arrested over the weekend on theft and murder charges, the Houston Police Department said.

Nine days gone

When officers visited Kerdachi's home on Feb. 23, 2021, the detective wrote, they spoke with a man living in a first-floor unit of the house who said he had not seen Kerdachi for nine days. Police identified the man as Michael Brown − Merritt's boyfriend at the time.

Another tenant living in the home also told police he came home from a trip and found Merritt inside refusing to leave. When the tenant asked where Kerdachi was, the complaint continues, Merritt told the tenant she killed him.

At the time, no body was located and officers transported Merritt to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, the complaint says.

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'Large pools and drops of blood'

Later in October 2021, a tenant who had recently moved into the home called police after police said she found "large pools and drops of blood" in the home, a knife in the mailbox and "a bin with blood on it in a crawlspace" on the third floor.

At that time, the complaint shows, Merritt was back in the home where the new tenant told officers she was paying rent to Merritt and Brown, and was given a discount on rent by the pair if she agreed to clean the second and third floors of the home.

A responding officer who entered the home with the new tenant reported he observed "large balls of blood on the floor on the third floor of the house" specifically in the bathroom on the floor near the bathtub.

The tenant, the complaint alleges, said Merritt told her she and Brown took Kerdachi to a hospital after he suffered "some kind of stab wound from falling on a sharp object" and that he died at the hospital.

Still, Kerdachi remained missing.

'A reddish-brown fluid' dripping down

On Dec. 5, 2021, the new tenant said, she heard Merritt and Brown talking loudly about a dead dog under the back stairs, the court papers continue.

The new tenant asked to see it, the complain reads, and Merritt eventually pointed her to the body underneath "the back exterior staircase of the residence."

By the time the new tenant "finally called police" on Dec. 6, 2021, Merritt and Brown had not left and, "instead were inside the second floor of the residence painting the wall and interior side of the doorway."

The new tenant told officers she believed they were painting over these areas because "a reddish-brown fluid had been dripping down from the wall from the third floor and she thought it might be blood."

Detectives revisited the home and about 11:30 p.m., police said, found a human skeleton in the backyard, "the remains in an advanced state of decomposition. "

Autopsy results from the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences identified the remains as those of Kerdachi.

The coroner, according to the complaint, said he died as a result of sharp force and blunt force trauma to the torso. An autopsy also found he suffered multiple stab wounds to the head, neck and other parts of his upper body.

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A fake death claim

On Dec. 7, 2021, Merritt and Brown were interviewed at the police station where detectives said Merritt told officers the remains belonged to a dead dog. She denied Kerdachi was dead and claimed he had faked his death and fled to Africa.

At the station Brown told the officers Merritt was bipolar, told him their landlord "just left" and that he had "not idea what she was talking about." He also said Merritt told him she wanted to "take over the house" and that he had never taken the victim to the hospital.

Both Brown and Merritt were release without charges at the time, the complaint shows.

A warrant: 834 days later

On May 30, 2023 − 834 days after Kerdachi disappeared - police issued a warrant for Merritt in connection to his death.

Police arrested Merritt over the weekend and, on Wednesday, jail records show she remained behind bars on $510,000 bond.

Police did not say whether charges are pending against anyone else in the case.

Merritt is due in court on Nov. 1 for a hearing on the charges, online records show.

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Houston woman charged with killing landlord, hiding him, stealing rent