Leopold man charged with felony assault

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Prosecutors say a 24-year-old Leopold, Mo., man smashed his fiancee's friend in the face with a rock, requiring more than 40 stitches above her left eye.

Nicholas T. Mergel is charged with three felonies -- first-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon and first-degree property damage -- and a misdemeanor count of third-degree domestic assault.

The assault charge was the most serious filed late Monday by Bollinger County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Gray. It carries a possible life sentence because it resulted in serious injuries to the 23-year-old alleged victim.

Mergel remained in custody Tuesday at the Bollinger County Jail on a $50,000 cash-only bond.

A court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. today in Marble Hill, Mo. Lawyer Al Lowes is representing Mergel, according to online court filings.

Rocks were a factor cited in all of the charges, based on reports from witnesses who told police Mergel also used them to damage a third woman's car and to injure his girlfriend. The criminal complaint, in justifying the weapons charge, says rocks are "readily capable of lethal use."

The victim called 911 at about 1 a.m. Sunday to report she had been assaulted, according to a probable-cause statement prepared by Bollinger County deputy Della K. Moore. The victim told the dispatcher she was bleeding from a head wound. She was accompanied by another woman, who said that Mergel damaged her car when he threw rocks at it.

Moore found the victim incoherent and confused, according to the statement, though the victim named Mergel as her attacker.

The night began when Mergel, his fiancee and two of her female friends -- the victim and the car owner -- went to a bar in Zalma. When the four left, Mergel drove, but his erratic driving made the women upset, and they told him to slow down, according to witness accounts.

Mergel, the statement says, responded by pulling the car off the road, into a field and slamming on the brakes.

He bolted from the car, the statement says, and ran into nearby woods. The women tried to find him, they told police, especially because he was drunk and may have hurt himself.

The women said they saw Mergel come from the woods and begin to throw rocks -- first at the car and then at the women, hitting at least two of them initially in the legs.

After they begged him to stop, Mergel and his fiancee got back into the car, the report says. A short time later, his fiancee began screaming at Mergel to quit hurting her. Later, she reportedly suffered from bite marks.

The woman who later would claim to have been hit in the face pulled Mergel from the car, and the two fought briefly for a time on the ground. When the two separated, the victim got in the car.

That's when Mergel, the statement says, picked up a "huge rock" and sprinted to the car.

While the other two women couldn't see exactly what happened, by the time they got to the car, they found the woman bleeding from the head. The woman who owned the car got in and drove the 23-year-old to get help while they called 911. Mergel and his fiancee were left on the county road.

The victim's car, which she left at Mergel's home before they went to the bar, was later found burned and abandoned at the intersection of county roads 442 and 446 -- about two miles from Mergel's house.

Mergel was arrested at his home.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Zalma, Mo.

204 High St., Marble Hill, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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