Brooksville Mother’s Day weekend double murder case still unsolved 40 years later

Hernando County

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) – Across from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Cortez Boulevard there is a billboard with a question that has haunted two families for four decades: “Who killed Rick Merrill and Dori Colyer?”

“I believe in an eye for an eye and I think it’s time,” Diane Woedl said. “They’ve had 40 years to live their life. My sister didn’t. Rick didn’t.”

Woedl’s 20-year-old sister has now been gone for twice as long as she had to live because of the unsolved brutal double murder from Mother’s Day weekend in 1981.

“I was 26 and having my family and we never got to grow old together,” Woedl said, speaking with 8 On Your Side from her home in Ohio.

The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office took over the cold case when the Brooksville Police Department disbanded in 2018.  

“I don’t know why the other department couldn’t solve it,” Woedl said.

Since Detective George Loydgren started investigating, Woedl said she’s had renewed hope justice will be served.

“You cant give up hope,” she said, “I mean you just can’t.”

Forty years ago, Woedl said she planned to tell her moms he was expecting her second child.

“It was mother’s day and my mother called to tell me at that point they said she’d been in a car accident,” she said.

Around midnight on May 9, 1981, investigators say Colyer and Merrill left the Hilltop Saloon on Broad Street in Brooksville. They told friends they’d be back soon but were never seen again.

Around 2:30 a.m., firefighters responded to a possible “brushfire” on Stafford Avenue about a mile from the saloon and found Merrill’s Chevy El Camino on fire.

Through a subsequent search, they discovered two bodies later identified as Merrill and Colyer.

For Woedl, the murder of her little sister will always overshadow Mother’s Day.

All these years later, Woedl said she wants to know why and a long overdue break in the cold case would bring some closure to her family.

“It’s not like they have good DNA evidence or a murder weapon or anything like that,” she said. “They don’t have a lot to work with but somebody knows something. You’re not gonna tell me in a small town like that people didn’t know, so somebody needs to come forward.”

Anyone with information to help solve the double murder, should contact Detective Loydgren at 352-754-6830.

Anonymous tips can also be given to Hernando County Crime Stoppers at 1-866-990-TIPS (8477) or submitted online.

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