Questions remain in mysterious Pittsburg homicide

A lot of 22-year-olds might look for the hippest and loudest club in San Francisco to have some fun. Ben Merrill chose something more old-fashioned.

After the Washington native would clock out serving Irish coffees at the venerable Buena Vista Cafe, he searched for the ghosts of the Beat generation in North Beach. He walked everywhere, and sought stories from San Francisco old-timers. He rarely left The City.

So when police found Merrill’s body 40 miles away without any identification, the apparent victim of a robbery-homicide, it took days to find out who he was.

“He loved San Francisco, and he was always trying to find the real San Francisco spot, something real old-school,” his roommate and friend Jesse Catlin said. “Ben doesn’t know anyone in Pittsburg. He doesn’t go there.”

Merrill was on his way out for a date the last time he was seen. It was with an older woman he met earlier in the week. She was in town for a conference, and Merrill was dressed for the occasion, Catlin said.

He had pizza at the Holding Company Bar and Grill later that night. He was alone, and that’s the last time he was seen until Pittsburg police found his body early the morning of Nov. 3.

Merrill was found shot to death at about 3 a.m. in Marina Walk Park in Pittsburg. He had no identification and no criminal record, and remained a “John Doe” for two days.

Police arrested a 20-year-old Pittsburg woman Friday in connection with the murder and robbery, Pittsburg police Lt. Brian Addington said. Kiarra Price was arrested on suspicion of murder, robbery and an outstanding drug warrant.

Teareney Brown, a 20-year-old Richmond resident, was arrested without incident at about 7 p.m. Monday at a relative’s house in Oakland, Addington said.

Neither woman fits the description of Merrill’s date that night.

The person who reported the shooting allegedly saw a car speeding away from the park just after hearing a shot fired. Investigators believe they have recovered the car and also Merrill’s iPhone.</p>

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

Bay City News contributed to this report.
 

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