The Tragic 2013 Murder Of Caleb Harrison Explained

On April 16, 2009, 64-year-old Bill Harrison was found dead in the bathroom of his home in Mississauga, Canada. Although he did not have a history of cardiac issues, The Pointer reports Bill's death was determined to be caused by a sudden and acute heart arrhythmia. One year later, in April 2010, Bill's wife, Bridget, was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in the same house. Authorities initially determined her death was accidental.

Although law enforcement officials did not find any immediate reason to suspect foul play, the deaths of Bill and Bridget Harrison became the subject of rumors and speculation. As reported by The Pointer, the couple was in the midst of supporting their son, Caleb, in an increasingly contentious custody battle with his ex-wife, Melissa Merritt. On the same evening that Bill was found dead, Merritt and her new boyfriend, Christopher Fattore, fled with the two children. According to Toronto Life, she dyed the children's hair and left town with no forwarding address. 

The couple was eventually found living in Londonderry, Nova Scotia, Canada, under assumed names. However, authorities were able to positively identify them when Fattore wrote a check in his real name. On November 27, 2009, Merritt was arrested and charged with parental abduction. Although she was released on bail, she was prohibited from contacting Caleb or their two children. Bridget was expected to testify against Merritt at her trial, which was scheduled for April 22, 2010. However, she died before the trial took place.

Caleb Harrison and his parents all died under unusual circumstances

Toronto Life reports that a medical examiner ultimately ruled Bridget's death as suspicious, but there was not enough evidence to prove that she was murdered. On August 23, 2013, Caleb Harrison was found dead inside his bedroom in the same home where both of his parents died. Unlike his parents, Caleb's cause of death was determined to be asphyxiation and his manner of death was determined to be homicide.

After Caleb Harrison's death was ruled a homicide, the deaths of Bill and Bridget Harrison were reexamined. As reported by The Pointer, Bill had a number of marks on his neck and a fractured sternum, which were not consistent with the authorities' initial ruling of a natural death. Bridget also had marks on her neck, which were not consistent with a fall, and appeared to suggest she may have been strangled.

Law enforcement officials immediately suspected Christopher Fattore and Melissa Merritt in Caleb's murder due to the ongoing custody battle. Amid their investigation, authorities concluded that DNA found under Caleb's fingernails was a match for Fattore. Toronto Life reports that authorities also found a pair of gloves in Fattore's trash which had both Caleb and Fattore's DNA on them. They also searched Fattore and Merritt's computer and found evidence of several disturbing Google searches, including, "What if a grandparent has legal custody and they die?" and "If a grandparent has custody of the children and they die, which of the parents get the kids?"

Caleb Harrison and Melissa Merritt fought over custody of their children

Caleb Harrison and Melissa Merritt had two children together. However, their marriage was volatile. In early 2005, Harrison was arrested and charged with domestic violence after he struck his wife during an argument. As reported by Toronto Life, the incident ultimately led to the couple's separation.

In July of that same year, Harrison was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and causing death and bodily harm. After spending the evening at a party consuming several drinks, Harrison got into his mother's Mercedes and started driving home. Along the way, he crossed the center line and struck a taxi cab driven by Michael Rayment. Toronto Life reports that Rayment was killed in the collision. Two of his passengers, Tom Falinski and Tim Corbett, survived, but were severely injured. When she heard about the accident, Merritt was terribly concerned for the welfare of her children as she did not think Harrison was responsible enough to care for them. However, despite her misgivings, a judge determined they should share custody of the children.

Caleb Harrison was convicted of driving under the influence and causing a fatal crash

Although the accident occurred in 2005, Caleb Harrison was not convicted or sentenced until March 9, 2009. In the meantime, Melissa Merritt continued to fight for sole custody of their two children. As reported by Toronto Life, Merritt filed numerous complaints with the authorities and children's services as she believed Harrison was abusing and neglecting their children. However, officials found no evidence that they were in any danger nor were being neglected. She also complained that Caleb's parents, as opposed to Caleb himself, provided a majority of the care for the children.

Harrison was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for driving under the influence and causing a fatal crash. Although Merritt hoped she would be given custody while he was in prison, a judge granted custody to his parents instead. Just over one month later, Bill Harrison was found dead. By the time Bridget Harrison died, Toronto Life reports Caleb was out of prison and was granted sole custody of both of his children. Merritt was granted visitation rights, but the couple continued to argue about the arrangement.

Caleb Harrison was granted custody of his children when he was released from prison

In the late night hours of August 22, 2013, Christopher Fattore broke into Caleb Harrison's home and into the bedroom where Harrison was sleeping. As reported by Toronto Life, Fattore struck Harrison in the chest. He then continued to strike Harrison and throw him around the room as he begged for his life. Fattore ultimately strangled Harrison to death and fled the scene. His body was discovered the following morning by Harrison's housekeeper.

In January 2014, Fattore and Merritt were both arrested and charged with the murders of Bridget and Caleb Harrison. Although they were also suspected in the murder of Bill Harrison, authorities were still gathering evidence in that particular case. Fattore was interrogated for 13 hours before he confessed to killing Bridget and Caleb. However, Toronto Life reports that he swore, "Melissa Merritt did not know anything until after it was done."

Christopher Fattore and Melissa Merritt were both convicted in Caleb Harrison's murder

Although Christopher Fattore tried to spare Melissa Merritt from being charged with the murders, they were both charged and found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Caleb Harrison. Toronto Life reports that Fattore was also found guilty of the first-degree murder of Bridget Harrison. However, Merritt was not convicted of killing Bridget as the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict and a mistrial was declared. Fattore was also eventually charged with second-degree murder of Bill Harrison, but the jury returned a verdict of not guilty as the prosecution was unable to provide enough evidence to prove their case.

Both Fattore and Merritt were ultimately sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving 25 years. As reported by Toronto Life, they both said that they intend to appeal their convictions. The events preceding Caleb's murder and authorities' response to those events prompted an internal investigation of the Peel Regional Police Department. The internal investigation led to the implementation of new protocols for all suspicious death investigations conducted by the department. According to Toronto Life, officers will specifically be trained on how to more thoroughly investigate suspicious deaths.