UPDATED: Rochester man accused of killing, hiding corpse of missing Buffalo County woman

New trial date set for man accused of fatally beating father

ALMA, Wis. — Law enforcement officials have arrested and charged a Minnesota man with first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the disappearance of a Buffalo County, Wis., woman who in the county in December 2016.

Randall Q. Merrick, 48, of Rochester, Minn., also was charged with domestic abuse and hiding a corpse, according to the criminal complaint filed in Buffalo County Circuit Court Wednesday in connection with the death of Beth Johnson.

Prosecutors and agents with the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest.

On or about and between Dec. 25, 2016, and March 12, 2017, Merrick killed Johnson, who would be 54 now, according to the complaint. She was last seen in her mobile home in the village of Nelson, where she lived with Merrick.

Merrick then allegedly hid or buried Johnson’s body, the complaint alleges.

Johnson’s son, Joel, who lives in Minnesota, called the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office on March 12, 2017, to report that he hadn’t seen, spoken with or received communication from his mom since Dec. 25, 2016. She also hadn’t called him on his birthday, which he described as unusual.

When Joel called Merrick’s cell phone on Feb. 22, because his mother didn’t have a cell, Merrick told him she had gone to the Twin Cities to visit a friend. Two to three weeks later, Joel called again, and Merrick told him she had moved to the Twin Cities with a boyfriend.

Another witness reported Beth missing on March 14, 2017, to report that she hadn’t picked up her last paycheck from Beth’s Café since November.

Previous reports chronicled in the complaint indicated that Merrick allegedly had beaten Beth on previous occasions.

A cadaver dog alerted to decomposing human remains in the mobile home and in Beth’s Cadillac DeVille, which still was parked at the trailer, on April 20, 2018, the complaint said.
A witness told a deputy that Merrick told the witness in July 2018 that he didn’t mean to hurt her, but said, “I killed her. … I hit her too hard.”

Asked where the body was, Merrick allegedly said in the DeVille’s trunk, but her body has not been found.

The Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office asks that anyone with information regarding the case call the office at (608) 685-4433.

* This story has been corrected. No purchase information was given in the criminal complaint regarding the transaction at Paul Busch Auto Center as previously stated in this story. Detective Osmond obtained the receipt from a January 20, 2017 transaction at Hardware Hank’s in Wabasha. The charge was to Beth’s debit card, and the receipt was signed by the defendant. The items purchased included a sledgehammer, 42-gallon Gorilla trash bags, and Formula 409 cleaner.