GM middle school teacher arrested on federal charges of creating child pornography

By Cynthia Prairie and Shawn Cunningham
©2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Norm Merrill, a longtime 8th grade teacher  and Middle School coordinator at Green Mountain High School, was taken into custody today, Thursday, May 19, by Chester Police on federal charges of “producing child sexual abuse material.”

Norm Merrill at the 2016 Awards Night for graduating seniors. Chester Telegraph file photo

The U.S.  Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that Merrill, 45, of Chester, was arrested after having been indicted by a federal grand jury for charges related to the production and possession of child sexual abuse material, also known as child pornography.  Merrill is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin J. Doyle tomorrow.   The government has filed a motion requesting that Merrill be detained pending trial.

According to court records, on Saturday, May 7, 2022, officers from the Chester Police Department received reports concerning potential voyeurism occurring at Merrill’s home.  The investigation uncovered allegations of a hidden recording device in a bathroom at the home. The investigation also said that Merrill appeared to surreptitiously record young girls who were walking in front of him while at the school.

On Wednesday, May 11, Chester Police officers obtained search warrants and seized numerous electronic devices, including “pinhole cameras” and a “spy camera” from Merrill’s home. Also, Chester Police and the Vermont State Police conducted a preliminary examination of a memory card seized from the residence that revealed numerous voyeuristic videos taken in bathrooms.  Some of these videos were taken in a bathroom of defendant Merrill’s residence and were determined to depict nude minor female children.  The memory card also contained image files that appear to be screen-captures created from these videos of nude minors.

Earlier today, the federal grand jury in Burlington returned an indictment charging Merrill with production of child sexual abuse material, attempted production of child sexual abuse material and possession of child sexual abuse material.  If convicted of all charges, Merrill faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years of imprisonment and a maximum sentence of 30 years of imprisonment.

Merrill was taken into custody without incident and processed at the Chester Police Department. He is being transported to the Northwest Correctional Facility, where he will be linked by video to the federal court for his initial appearance tomorrow. The prosecutor is Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Ophardt.  Merrill has not yet retained or been appointed counsel.

In addition to the Chester Police Department and the Vermont State Police, the Department of Homeland Security worked on the investigation.

Placed on administrative leave last week

Last Wednesday, May 11, Merrill was put on administrative leave by the school and by the Two Rivers Supervisory Union. Then on Thursday morning GM parents received an email from Superintendent Lauren Fierman and GM principal Keith Hill saying:

We have difficult information to share with you. Wednesday evening, we received information about possible inappropriate behavior by a GMUHS staff member. That staff member has been placed on administrative leave while the police conduct their investigation.  At this time there is no indication that anything inappropriate happened at the school; however, in an abundance of caution, the police conducted a thorough search of the building for evidence late Wednesday evening.  We want to assure you that this does not involve drugs or weapons or physical safety.  We understand that you will have additional questions. We are not able to share further information at this time.  As soon as possible, we will provide an update.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Both Fierman and Hill were unavailable for comment as they were in tonight’s GMUSD board meeting.

Merrill,  a long-time GM teacher, is chair of the Language Arts Department and organized field trips and assemblies.


Cover photo by Jobsfor felonshub under a creative commons license
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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Venissa White says:

    My thoughts are with the many victims of these crimes, the ones who know, don’t know, or suspect that they may be victims. And for Norm’s children, their lives will forever be changed. Now it’s time for GMUHS, Chester, and TRSU to come to terms with the sexual violence and rape culture it has often swept under the rug—let’s hope their Title IX policies are in order and a full investigation is done and offered to all students and their families.

  2. Patrick Spurlock says:

    I am absolutely furious that this was kept from students, faculty, staff, and parents of GM students for an entire week! During this time rumors have been rampant and parents and staff have been left in the dark not knowing what to tell our children or how to even begin processing the rumors that were coming out. While our judicial system states “Innocent until proven guilty” the public has an absolute right to know when there is a monster in our midst. I hope that for the sake of my daughter, one of his advisees, the book is thrown at him and that he never sees the light of day again.