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Could pawned bracelet help solve the fatal stabbing of an 85-year-old Korean War veteran?

Police Line Crime Scene. (Tony Webster/WikiCommons)

An 85-year-old Korean War veteran killed last month was fatally stabbed and police have accused the last person they think was with him of pawning his bracelet, recently released search warrants show.

Benjamin Franklin Merritt, 85, was found dead at his home at 2209 Evers Drive in Raleigh on June 13, after a family member called 911 to request police check on his welfare. He had stab wounds in the chest, back and neck, according to the warrants, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police arrested Michael Nicholson, 54, of Maryland on July 5 on a charge of obtaining property by false pretense after police say he pawned a bracelet that belonged to Merritt, according to the warrants.

Nicholson was “the last person known to be with the victim,” two days before the police found Merritt dead, the warrants say.

There were no signs of forced entry at Merritt’s home, the warrants say.

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Nicholson has not been charged in Merritt’s death, and the warrants do not call him a suspect.

He remains in the Wake County jail on the pawned-bracelet charge on $35,000 bail.

Nicholson was carrying a knife in a backpack when he was arrested, which was of a size and shape “consistent with the stab wounds on Merritt’s body,” the medical examiner who did Merritt’s autopsy said, according to the warrants.

Police also obtained a warrant to collect DNA swabs from Nicholson, along with his phone and any data on it. The DNA swabs were sent to the State Crime Lab for testing.

In a police interview, Nicholson said an unidentified third person was with him and Merritt. The police contacted this person, who said he only spoke to Nicholson on the phone, the warrants say. Nicholson also told his wife he was on a bus to Maryland that day, June 11, but only left three days later, June 14, the warrants say.

Merritt fought in Company A 74 in the Korean War. When he returned, he attended St. Augustine’s College and got a master’s degree in counseling. He went on to mentor at-risk male youth over the course of 40 years, his obituary says.

Police are continuing to investigate his death.

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© 2019 The News & Observer