Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Victim Showed Couple Photos, Begged for Life during Beating; Defendant's Girlfriend Testified That They Attacked with a Stun Gun, Pepper Spray, Hammer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Victim Showed Couple Photos, Begged for Life during Beating; Defendant's Girlfriend Testified That They Attacked with a Stun Gun, Pepper Spray, Hammer

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUNT

In the final moments of Isaac Siliman's life, he shared a cigarette with his killers and showed them pictures of his family - the wife and children he was working tirelessly to relocate from violence-plagued Sudan.

It was a sign of blossoming trust, not a plea for mercy.

The story unfolded from the witness stand Wednesday as a Duval County jury began hearing evidence against Merlin Williams Jr., 33, the man accused of plotting to rob Siliman after beating him into submission with a hammer, stun gun and pepper spray in September 2009.

Siliman, 37, was killed in the attack. Authorities say Williams and his girlfriend, 24-year-old Ashley Nichole Jerrell, made off with his wallet, computer and sport-utility vehicle. They used his bank account to buy Chinese food, beer from a convenience store and more than $700 worth of clothing.

Had authorities not caught up with them as soon as they did, Williams and Jerrell had plans to torch Siliman's black Nissan Xterra using a jug of gasoline found inside the SUV, authorities say.

Jerrell has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, armed robbery and grand theft auto in an arrangement in which she testified against Williams. She is awaiting sentencing.

She wept as she answered questions about what happened. She said she and Williams were broke and living in his truck. They decided to rob Siliman, a man Williams had done a small job for about a week before the murder.

Williams had been marketing himself as a cable installer and computer technician, Jerrell said. He typically earned $65 to $85 per job, but the work became scarce as he had frequent fallouts with customers about service.

Jerrell said Siliman welcomed her and Williams into his home at Lighthouse Bay Apartments the night of the attack. She said he shared his cigarettes with them on the back patio. He also pulled out the family photo album.

Siliman, a Sudanese refugee, had been in the United States for about five years. …

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