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Suicide suspected in MOB case

JUNE 22 — The prominent Maryland publisher whose body was found Monday floating in Chesapeake Bay apparently took his own life by shooting himself in the head.

Philip Merrill, 72, was found with what investigators said was a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head, a source “familiar with the investigation,” says in a Washington Post news report. Authorities initially said that foul play was not suspected. Merrill’s family issued a statement Tuesday saying they were “shocked at the news” of the apparent suicide and found it “very difficult to accept.”

According to the statement, Merrill underwent heart surgery more than a year ago and had been prescribed several medications as a result. Merrill’s family members say they confronted him about his “dimmed spirit” and spoke with his physician about it. “[Merrill] was fatigued and unmotivated, a clear departure from his lifelong optimistic outlook and irrepressible spirit,” the statement says. “We were concerned for his welfare but never imagined that he would consider taking his own life.”

Merrill, who was said to have been an experienced sailor, was found Monday floating, without a PFD, one mile southwest of Poplar Island in the Chesapeake, about 11 miles northeast of where his 41-foot sailboat, Merrilly, was discovered June 10 drifting and crewless, news reports say. The person who found Merrilly reportedly noted that the boat’s engine was still running, Merrill’s wallet was on board and that there was blood at the stern of the vessel.

Merrill was chairman of the board of Capital-Gazette Communications Inc., and served as president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. “It’s impossible for us to imagine that the father and husband that we knew and loved was capable of this act,” the family’s statement says.

“We ask everyone to remember him as we will — for the first amazing 71 years of his life.”

— Jason Fell