CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Mahmood Bhatti, who was charged with killed his former girlfriend and her unborn child, has been in jail without bond since October.
In court Thursday afternoon, prosecutor Jay Ashendorf told the judge that Bhatti was the last one to see his former girlfriend Natalie Merrick, and that police have found Google searches he conducted the day she disappeared on how to gag someone without them screaming.
Merrick had been missing for several days before workers found her body in a culvert near Fort Mill, and police quickly focused on Bhatti and the south Charlotte apartment they lived in.
“They had broken up, but were still living under the same roof,” Ashendorf said.
Ashendorf said Bhatti could take off if he is allowed out of jail, but Bhatti's attorney presented a different view.
Tony Scheer, Bhatti’s defense attorney, said the case is not as clear-cut as police and prosecutors are suggesting and that Bhatti is not the villain some might think.
“The guy sitting next to me is a guy who, at the age of 25, had a very autistic child,” Scheer said. “Everybody talked of him as a gentle, sensitive and adjectives like that.
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Scheer made sure the judge saw more than two dozen of Bhatti's family and friends sitting right behind him, who would be there to support him if he gets out of jail.
The judge set a bond of $400,000 in the case, and Bhatti's family left shortly after with hope for the first time in months that they could see him out of jail soon.
Prosecutors announced last month that they will not seek the death penalty for Bhatti.
If Bhatti gets out of jail on bond, he would live with his sister in her uptown condo.
He would also have to wear an electronic monitor that would let police know where he is 24 hours a day.
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