Two Killed in Brutal Home Invasion

POSTED: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - 8:26am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:58pm

Florida detectives are investigating two deaths following a brutal home invasion in Poinciana. Investigators say a group of men burst into the home Sunday, killing one man and woman, then torturing a third man.

A toddler found underneath the bodies of the two adults was covered in blood, but unharmed. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says the situation was drug-related. He believes the men tortured the male victim because he owed them $5,000 for drugs.

Police identified the tortured man as 29-year-old Wilkins Merilan, who lives at the home where the crimes occurred. He was taken to Tampa General Hospital with serious injuries, including two gunshot wounds.

According to investigators, the group of men forced their way into the home and told Merilan, "If you're going to sell drugs, you're going to sell our drugs."
They then demanded money from Merilan before torturing and shooting him. Merilan was shot twice but was able to hide in a closet and call deputies. Police said Merilan has a criminal record and a long history of drug dealing.

A witness at the scene said the woman who was shot and killed was Merilan's girlfriend. The female victim's mother, Belinda Strachan, said her daughter was not a drug dealer and encouraged people with information about the crime to come forward. "If anybody knows who killed my daughter, I have a reward for you," Strachan said. "I am not leaving this town until I find the person who killed my baby."

When deputies arrived at the scene, Judd said, they found a 3-year-old girl covered in blood lying under the woman's body. The girl is alive and is not injured, police said. Deputies said they thought the girl was dead when they saw her, but then they heard her snore and realized she was sleeping.

The child's mother was not present and does not reside at the Dunlin address, police said. "The two victims were executed," Judd said. "We need the community's help to identify these suspects." Judd said he wants neighbors to know that this was not a random crime and that anyone not dealing drugs and involved in illegal activity is not in danger.