PHOENIX — A man accused in some of the freeway shootings that put Phoenix drivers on edge for weeks will be in court Thursday to face charges that could lead to 100 years in prison if he's convicted, prosecutors say.
Each of the four shootings that Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., 21, is charged with carries a possible sentence of 20 to 30 years, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Wednesday. But prosecutors cautioned it was too early to predict sentencing or the outcome of a trial.
Montgomery still called the arrest significant enough that the public can rest easier.
"It appears to be the person who initiated what was going on at that time," Montgomery said. "We haven't had any incidents since then."
Merritt is scheduled to be arraigned on 15 felony counts, including aggravated assault and carrying out a drive-by shooting. He has said previously in court that authorities arrested the wrong man.
Jason Lamm, one of two defense attorneys hired this week, said he has not had a chance to review any police reports or other evidence against his client.
"We're looking for the truth, and there is no stone that will be left unturned to find it," Lamm said.
Merritt was arrested Sept. 18 at a Wal-Mart in Glendale. Using ballistics tests, Arizona Department of Public Safety detectives tied him to four of the 11 shootings that occurred on Phoenix-area freeways between Aug. 22 and Sept. 10. Investigators continue to review information, and more charges are possible, Montgomery said.
The investigation into the other shootings remains open. Eight cars were hit with bullets, and three were struck with projectiles such as BBs or pellets, most while driving along Interstate 10, according to authorities. The only injury was to a 13-year-old girl whose ear got cut by glass on Aug. 29.
Merritt's arrest brought relief to some after Gov. Doug Ducey announced it on Twitter. His tweet saying, "We got him!" drew criticism for seemingly implying that Merritt was guilty.
Montgomery said the governor's tweet was not an issue in Merritt's ability to get a fair trial.
"Unless there were 6 million followers of that Twitter account, I don't think you can fairly say everyone was aware of it or could be impacted by it," Montgomery said.
The tweet illustrated the high emotion surrounding the case, Lamm said.
"Nevertheless, we will handle this from an objective assessment of the facts and evidence as opposed to hunches and emotion," he said. "By the way, Doug Ducey will not be on my jury. So I feel better about that."