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Dating site stalker faces fresh charges

Close to a dozen women told the I-Team they too were threatened and stalked by Merkle after meeting him on sites like Ok Cupid, Match.com and MeetUp.com.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY — An accused sexual predator is facing new charges and victims say it's all because of an ongoing I-Team investigation.

Prosecutors in St. Louis charged Robert Merkle, 49, with felony harassment. Court documents said Merkle was accused of stalking and threatened to rape several women in the area since 2016.

Close to a dozen women told the I-Team they too were threatened and stalked by Merkle after meeting him on sites like Ok Cupid, Match.com and MeetUp.com.

On Friday, Merkle also pleaded guilty to felony harassment in Jefferson County.

"He's a predator. He preys on women. He targets us. We look similar. We act similar," said the Jefferson County woman who has accused Merkle of stalking. She did not want to be identified for fear of her safety.

She said she connected with Merkle through OkCupid in the fall of 2016. She said she immediately began receiving aggressive and violent messages from him.

"It progressed to him trying to track me down, going to places I was at, asking other people about where I was. Reaching out to family and friends of mine directly," said the Jefferson County woman. She previously spoke to the I-Team in November.

That woman tried to file a police report but says it wasn't until the I-Team's first report on Merkle aired in September that she was taken seriously.

"When you asked me what the progress was, and I told you there wasn't any. You made a phone call, magically I was able to make a police report finally," said the Jefferson County woman.

Also last week, Merkle was hit with a new felony harassment charge in St. Louis. That woman alleged in court documents that Merkle sent her threatening messages after seeing her at a MeetUp.com event in September 2017.

"At one point we were up to fifteen women. Now we're at a number higher than that. It's sickening," said the Jefferson County woman.

Merkle currently faces five charges of harassment in St. Louis City and Jefferson County.

He has more than twelve documented accusers.

Merkle also has seven current restraining orders filed against him.

The I-Team first broke this story in September when harassment charges were filed by Merkle's first accuser. Since then other women have come forward and filed police reports. But some say police aren't taking them seriously.

"They're going to wait until there's more women, they're going to wait until one of us in the hospital," said the Jefferson county woman.

One accuser from St. Clair county, who also asked to remain nameless, told us prosecutors refused to charge Merkle.

She said she was constantly harassed by him after messaging briefly on a dating site. They never met, but she said he's gone as far as messaging and calling her son to gain access to her. He also allegedly spoofed his phone number and began harassing the woman from different numbers and email addresses.

"The sheriff's department said they can’t do anything because the [State's Attorney] won’t prosecute," said the St. Clair county accuser. "They had the proof and I did the research to link it to Robert. All they had to had to do was call the carriers to get his IP address to track it directly to him. Only law enforcement can obtain information."

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly confirmed investigators could not link the harassing messages to Merkle in December. Kelly said they haven't given up.

A captain at the St. Clair County Sheriff's Office told us he was unaware of the status of the case or whether it would be re-opened.

Merkle will be sentenced in Jefferson County on Friday.

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