A man from St. Louis pleaded guilty Thursday to five federal felonies and admitted harassing and threatening to rape five women.
Robert D. Merkle, 54, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to all the counts he was facing: two counts of interstate communication of threats and three counts of cyberstalking. He admitted harassing women in the St. Louis area and across the country for months, while he was on parole for similar crimes with different victims.
The federal investigation began in January 2022, after a woman told the Town and Country Police Department that a man she’d met on a dating site more than seven years earlier sent a series of text messages in which he said he’d made a copy of her house key and was planning on breaking into her home two days later and raping her.
The FBI obtained a court-approved search warrant for Merkle’s home and cell phones and discovered that he’d used emails, multiple cell phones, and a service that can send texts anonymously to harass women.
Merkle met several of the women on dating sites and worked with another woman.
Both sides have agreed to recommend the maximum penalty for the crime, five years in prison, at Merkle’s sentencing. That sentencing is scheduled for June 21. Merkle still faces a pending felony charge of harassment in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
Merkle was charged with harassment in 2017 and 2018 in Jefferson County Circuit Court and St. Louis Circuit Court, resulting in a three-year prison sentence. Merkle was living in a halfway house in St. Louis at the time of his federal crimes.
The FBI, the Town and Country Police Department, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the Glen Ellyn (Illinois) Police Department, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, and the Gulfport Police Department in Mississippi investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Lang is prosecuting the case.