Christopher C. Merchant
21 Years Old

January 21, 1975 to January 7, 1997

Christopher Charles Merchant was born on January 21, 1975 in Amesbury, Massachusetts. He was the third and youngest child of Denis and Judith Merchant. Chris, as he liked to go by, was a very outgoing child and loved to get into new things. He was never afraid to try something new and especially loved to take on new challenges. A great example was when he returned to Indianapolis and wanted to join the hockey program. Most of the kids in his age group had been skating for 4 to 5 years and his skating skills were far below those of his contemporaries. Yet Chris was not afraid of the challenge and he went out for the team and worked very hard. His first year, his eighth grade, he learned the basics, but his skating skills were far below where they should be if he was going to play on the high school level. Again, he worked hard skating year round and stayed with this sport that he loved. He skated in the summer and roller bladed whenever he had the opportunity. By the time he was a senior in high school, he was one of the best defensemen in the league. After his team won the state championship, he was awarded several trophies for attitude, courage and athletic achievements. He proved to all of us that if you want something strong enough, that you can achieve it through hard work and perseverance. The same thing happened in football, where he was nominated to the conference's first team defensive team and had the most sacks in the league. Chris was very popular and always brought friends home to the house. He loved to work at restaurants and started at a very early age. Ed Sahm was one of Chris's favorite bosses and mentors. Ed always gave Chris an opportunity to earn money. Chris learned a lot from restaurant work and got him believing that this was his career field. Chris was accepted at Indiana State University and went into restaurant management. He loved his professors and enjoyed the department. He quickly joined the Fraternity and moved into the house his freshman year. He kept his grades up and soon became involved in the leadership of the frat. His junior hear he was elected president of the frat and did a marvelous job. We were all proud of Chris and how fast he was growing into a young man. The following year, Chris joined the Army National Guard and went to basic training. This he enjoyed and when he returned he was asked to be a recruiter for the unit. His company commander said only the best are asked to be recruiters, and he said Chris fell into that definition. His final semester he took a full class load and was working at the TumbleWeed Restaurant and attending Army National Guard drills. He did well in school and was really enjoying life. He and his girlfriend, Stef, spent a lot of time together and life seemed so good. His total attitude was so positive. He had a plan and he just seemed so grown up. Judy and I would think how proud we were for the way that Chris had changed and was so responsible. Little did we know that when we saw Chris at Christmas in 1996 that that was going to be the last time we would ever see him alive.

He spent ten days with us, and the time went by so fast. When we brought him back to the airport, it was like we just got him and now he was going to be out of our lives for many months. He called on New Year's Eve and we were out so he left a message on our voicemail. Believe it or not that was the last time we heard his voice. How many times we have said why didn't we try harder to return his call. If we only knew that on January 7, the day he was murdered, that we would never get to hold him again or tell him how much we loved him, but we had no clue. So we have felt guilt and sad for two years wishing we could see him one last time to hug him and tell him how much his life meant to us.

Although we can't physically see Chris, we know his spirit is close. Chris is our hero and his memories can never be shot from our lives. We love Chris and we know that he is now with God in heaven.

Chris was on semester break on January 6, 1997, which was the last day of his life. He had worked all day at the TumbleWeed Restaurant and looked forward to going out with his friends. He went back to the Fraternity around 10 pm and called his girlfriend Stef. She said she was tired and didn't want to go out so he showered and went out to the bars with some of the fraternity brothers. He ended up at a bar called Simerals and drank with his friends until closing. Whenever he was drinking, he did not drive his car so he asked some other friends for a ride back to the fraternity house. When they got outside of the bar, three black men, not from the college, came across the street and started some trouble. Before anyone knew what happened, there was yelling and a fight broke out. Chris was actually in the car and was one of the last ones into the fight. He tried to talk them out of the fight, but that wasn't the answer. I have always told Chris that nothing is gained from fighting. Things apparently got out of hand, and the man who was fighting Chris pulled out a hand gun and fired it into Chris's side. Chris was shocked and fell to the ground and then another shot was fired into Chris's chest. We were told that Chris plead not to shoot, but the second shot was fired without any regard for Chris's life.

The shooter was Theodore Brewer, 25, and a convicted felon on parole. He was apprehended the next morning and immediately incarcerated. He was indicted for murder and held without bond. He went to trial the following November, pleased guilty to murdering Chris, and is now serving 55 years in a northern Indiana prison. On January 7, 1999, we relived the second anniversary of this heinous act. Chris was only 21 at the time of his murder, and hardly had a chance to live. We hope that Theodore Brewer never gets out of prison because we know he will hurt someone else's child.

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Christopher C. Merchant