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Decomposed body in backyard identified as terminally ill man reported missing, Orlando police say

Orlando Police Department

The body of a man missing more than a week was found buried in the backyard of Jimmy Gary Merritt — the man Orlando police are investigating in another killing.

Police were searching Merritt’s home on Lauressa Lane when they found Billy Wayne Deaton wrapped in plastic and blankets and buried under a large pile of wood and tools, police said. His body was “badly decomposed.”

Merritt, 37, was already in custody facing a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Benny Hallmark, who was found dead Friday in his recliner at his Orlando home. Merritt also faces charges of grand theft, uttering a forged check and fraud.

Additional charges are pending against Merritt related to Deaton’s death, Orlando Police Sgt. Eduardo Bernal said.

Deaton, 60, had been missing since Oct. 15. He suffered from a terminal condition and needed supplemental oxygen to breathe, Bernal said.

Hallmark had been shot at least once, according to the Orlando Police Department. Officers were called to his home near Catalina Elementary School about 11:15 a.m. Friday.

Hallmark and Merritt lived just 200 feet apart on opposite sides of Lauressa Lane. Police did not say whether the men knew each other.

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