The Murder of Nancy "Lynne" Mercer
We have seen plenty of cases in which a child has been involved in the murder of a parent but in most of those cases it is either a young teenager who commits the crime either with their boyfriend/girlfriend or at the behest of their other parent. Then there are the cases of older children murdering elderly parents for inheritance. This case is a bit different in many aspects. When members of Lynne Mercer's family learned that she had been murdered in her Spotsylvania Virginia home no one hesitated in telling authorities they were sure the perpetrator was Lynne's twenty- five year old daughter, Alaina and her wife, Christina Brown. Everyone was correct, it was Alaina and Christina who had murdered Lynne Mercer. If it was not so tragic it would almost be funny that Alaina and Christina seemed to think of all the things they could do to avoid being caught except for the fact that everyone on the planet would point their fingers at them the second they heard Lynne had been murdered.
Lynne worked as a nurse on the overnight shift at a hospital. When she failed to go to work for her 7am shift on May 18, 2014 her co-workers were concerned. It was not that Lynne simply had not shown up, it was that she had failed to even call and everyone knew that was not in Lynne's character. Finally after several attempts to reach her, the hospital asked the local police to go to her home and do a welfare check. When they got there a little after 11:30 that night they found the door unlocked and upon entering they found Lynne's body. The sixty year old grandmother had been shot four times.
So why did everyone point the finger at her daughter Alaina and her wife, Christina? There was no secret that there had not only been friction between the three spanning at least a few years but things had only gotten worse over the last several months. On top of that Alaina and Lynne were due in court the next day to address the custody of Alaina's two and a half year old daughter. Lynne had been granted temporary custody of the child in April and it was expected that she would receive full custody upon going to court on May 19th. Alaina and Christina both had made threats against Lynne pertaining to this issue. Of course investigators could not just go with the word of everyone who “knew” these two were involved in Lynne's murder, they had to prove it. But that did not seem to take long.
It seems that investigators felt they had enough evidence to arrest and charge both Alaina and Christina on May 30th, just over eleven days after the murder. They were arrested at their home in King George Virginia. It seems there was not much loyalty between the two women because it seems they each readily confessed to knowing that the murder was going to happen but they accused the other of actually committing it. As is customary, trials were set and the investigation continued.
Alaina was one of Lynne's six children. I cannot tell you exactly where she fit in line other than in the middle somewhere as she was not the oldest, or the youngest. Alaina had her issues though. She had attempted suicide several times over the years and had spent time in several different mental health facilities. She was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, PTSD and dissociative identity disorder (aka multiple personality disorder). It was at one of those mental health facilities that Alaina met Christina Brown. It is not clear at what point the two decided to marry. I can tell you that at the time they married it was not recognized in all fifty states and reports are sketchy as to whether they went to Washington D.C or Maryland for their ceremony. What I can say is that apparently by 2012 the couple, married or not, had been together for at least five years. If my calculations are correct then both Alaina and Christina was about eighteen when they got together. I use this date as a reference because in June of 2012 Lynne had gotten a protective order against the two women. The order was set to expire a few months after her murder but within the order it was claimed that the couple had lived with Lynne for approximately five years and Lynne claimed that they had both physically and verbally abused her. It appears that sometime after the couple stopped living with Lynne Alaina gave birth to a daughter.
On April 2, 2014 Alaina was arrested for prostitution. This apparently was not the first time this had happened. She received disability benefits but apparently over the years had not just engaged in prostitution but also advertised on the Internet. Lynne, apparently with some help from other family members obtained some of those advertisements and Lynn petitioned the court for custody of Alaina's daughter. She was granted temporary custody on April 9th with what appears to be a final hearing on the case set for May 19th. It was said that at the hearing in April Alaina, Christina and even some of Christina's family yelled and were angry at the ruling. Christina was said to have made threats against the court, court personnel and Lynne.
A few days after the murder occurred an anonymous tip was called in saying that the couple had recently bought a gun. Investigators were able to determine that Christina (although some reports say it was Alaina) bought a 9mm pistol from a man who lived nearby for $250 sometime in mid-April. Investigators found the man and determined that he had fired the gun on his property prior to selling it to the couple. Forensics were able to determine that the shell casings found in the mans yard matched one found near Lynne's body. Investigators also had a search done at least on Alaina's phone. There they found searches on things such as “load and fire 9mm,” “9mm look and work,” and sites of notorious murders especially those of not guilty verdicts or alleged coerced confessions.
In the few short days between the murder and the arrests, both one of Alaina sisters and the biological father of her daughter had filed restraining orders against her. They both alleged that she tried to forcibly take her daughter with her. By the way things read it seems that initially after the murder Alaina's sister was given custody of the child but it also appears that the biological father had at least some sort of contact or visitation also. This behavior likely helped investigators confirm the motive behind Lynne's murder.... the custody of Alaina's child.
In August of 2015 Alaina pleaded guilty to the charge of accessory before the fact. The fact that she knew about a plot to kill her mother and did nothing made her just as culpable as it would have had she actually been involved, which investigators and prosecutors believed to actually be the case. However, really they had each woman's word against the other as to who was the actual shooter. Any trials would have concentrated on what the other person did an”Christina” was frustrated with their inability to obtain custody of her daughter. She blamed Christina for buying the gun and coming up with the ideas to hide their involvement. It had been decided that the home would be ransacked to look like a break in. It had also been decided that they would not carry their phones with them but leave them at their home in King George so if they were traced they never left the area... oh, and they would wear oversized shoes in case they left prints. It was these things that I referred to early on in which I discussed how it would have been funny if not so sad that they thought of all of these things but apparently did not think about how everyone would point fingers at them the second they heard of the murder. Just over a month earlier they had publicly, in the court room threatened the victim, two weeks later they bought a gun and a month after that, the day before the next court hearing the victim was shot dead in her home. Two plus two definitely equaled four here. Christina was planning to take her case to trial but apparently after hearing what Alaina planned to say she too agreed to plead guilty of the same charge, accessory before the fact.
In June of 2016 both women went to court to be sentenced. It seems as if this all occurred at one hearing. Lynne's family, including her other daughters were present, but they made clear that they were there for Lynne's memory and not for Alaina. Alaina spoke in court about how she was sorry about her mother's murder but also how she was sorry her family had turned against her and how she still loved them. Both defense attorney's argued their mental health issues. Neither woman had any support for them in the courtroom. Apparently despite supporting Christina at the custody hearing in April of 2014, by June of 2016 no one seemed to be supporting her. The recommended sentencing guidelines called for them to serve between twenty-four and forty years in prison. The judge gave them each seventy-five years, the maximum but suspended fifteen years of that, leaving them a sentence of sixty years. The judge made clear that she did not care which of the two did the murder, they were both culpable and expressed to Alaina she was not sure “which is worse, shooting your mother in cold blood or sitting at home knowing your mother was about to be killed and doing nothing.”
The Virginia Department of Corrections website is surely not one of the best I have seen and does not give a lot of information other than to say a maximum release date. Considering they allegedly got the same sentence you would think they would have the same release date, however, they do not. Alaina's is shown as October of 2066 while Christina's is shown as November 2073. This tells me that either she had gotten into more trouble while serving time or it is possible that while, like Alaina, she pleaded to accessory before the fact, she may have also pleaded on some other charges, giving her more time.
If this case proves a lot of things. No matter how clever you think you are in planning and getting away with murder, you will always screw up somewhere. It also proves that love is not stronger than the threat of jail or prison. These two women turned on each other so fast it was unbelievable. Neither was willing to lay down on the sword for the other or likely admit their own role in the murder of an innocent mother.