May 26, 2016
Leslie Merritt Jr. is now a free man, after serving seven months in jail after he was arrested and accused of being the Arizona freeway sniper.
Merritt, who has maintained his innocence since the beginning, describes his time behind bars as “mental torture.” But he says the challenges didn’t stop the day the charges were dismissed and he was released.
Merritt’s daughter was 5 months old when he was arrested. Now that she’s 13 months old, Merritt says reconnecting with the child wasn’t easy.
WATCH: Accused Arizona Freeway Sniper Recalls The Day He Was Arrested While He Says He Was Buying Diapers For His Daughter
“How did she react when she saw you?” Dr. Phil asks.
“That was really tough for me. When I got arrested, I had my beard and everything. I came out 50 pounds lighter and clean-shaven, she didn’t recognize me at all. She ran away from me. I couldn’t touch her for three days,” he explains. “My son, the first day I was out, he laid down and was taking a nap. He woke up [yelling], ‘Where’s my dad? Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!’ I was like, ‘I’m not going anywhere bud. I’m sorry this all happened.’
WATCH: Why Leslie Merritt Jr. Says It’s Impossible He Was The Arizona Freeway Sniper
“It tore me up,” Merritt adds. “My kids should not have had to go through that.”
“How do you put your life back together?” Dr. Phil asks Merritt in an exclusive new interview.
WATCH: Once Accused Arizona Freeway Sniper Describes His 222 Days Behind Bars: It Was ‘Mental Torture’
“I’m still trying to figure that out myself. I may have been let out of jail, but I’m still kind of confined,” Merritt admits. “Anywhere I go, I don’t know if I’m going to get good or negative comments from people. I get harassing messages. I get people telling me that I’m worse than a terrorist and I should rot in jail. But I also get, ‘We’re so glad you’re home.’”
This episode of Dr. Phil airs Thursday.