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Former coach sentenced in sexual assault of friend’s stepdaughter

Updated October 12, 2020 - 4:19 pm

A longtime friend of a suspected boogaloo member was sentenced Monday to 30 years to life in prison in the sexual assault of the alleged extremist’s teenage stepdaughter.

Phillip Merrill, 35, whom police once described as a convention worker and girls volleyball club coach, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of sexual assault with a minor under 16 and three counts of lewdness with a child. His sex crimes occurred between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2019, court records show.

Merrill is friends with alleged boogaloo member Stephen Parshall, who also has been charged with sexually assaulting Parshall’s stepdaughter. Both men are in custody.

Parshall and two other men are facing terrorism charges in an alleged right-wing conspiracy to cause violence at Black Lives Matter protests.

Authorities have not linked Merrill, who is eligible for parole after 30 years, to the local boogaloo group.

In handing out Merrill’s sentence, Clark County District Judge Jacqueline Bluth followed the terms of the plea agreement between prosecutors and defense lawyers.

Merrill, a Navy veteran, appeared for the sentencing by video conference from the Clark County Detention Center.

“I’m very, very sorry for what happened,” he said.” I know I need to atone for my sins.”

Merrill is also negotiating a plea deal with federal prosecutors related to the state charges involving the teenager, who is 14.

Veronica O’Malley, the girl’s mother, testified that her daughter has been undergoing counseling and remains in a state of depression over her sexual mistreatment.

“She goes through grief every day,” O’Malley said. “She’s scared of everybody around her.”

Outside the courtroom, O’Malley said a minimum sentence of 30 years is too short for someone who has caused so much harm to a child. She questioned whether Merrill assaulted other young girls in the past.

The investigation was launched after FBI agents found what they called “child sex abuse material” on a cellphone seized from Parshall during his May 30 arrest in connection with the alleged terror plot. Some of the photos showed a “partially nude, prepubescent” girl performing sex acts with a male, the arrest report alleges.

Parshall eventually was charged with 23 felony counts of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter, along with three lewdness counts.

Parshall’s stepdaughter described to investigators how Merrill sexually abused her, a police report alleges. She said Merrill often would babysit her and her younger sisters on Friday and Saturday nights when their parents went out.

O’Malley told police that the teenager informed her three years ago that both Merrill and Parshall had been assaulting her but that she didn’t believe it, court documents show.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter. German is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing. Support our journalism.

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