DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of Iowa

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Kevin W. Techau
, United States Attorney
Contact: Peter Deegan

Vinton Woman Charged With Providing a Firearm to an Unlawful User of Marijuana

Robyn Lynn Merchant, a/k/a Robyn Lynn Winterroth, 52, from Vinton, Iowa, has been charged with one count of providing a firearm to a prohibited person.The charges are contained in a Complaint unsealed today in United States District Court in Cedar Rapids.  The Complaint alleges that, on or about February 23, 2015, Merchant provided a Walther HK MP5 22LR semiautomatic rifle to her son, D.W., a minor child.

The Complaint further alleges that at the time Merchant provided D.W. the semiautomatic rifle, Merchant knew or had reasonable cause to believe that D.W. was an unlawful user of marijuana.

Allegations in the Complaint provide that on February 24, 2015, at approximately 6:19 p.m., police responded to the residence of Merchant in Vinton, Iowa, after receiving a 911 call that a shooting had taken place. When police arrived, they discovered that a 14 year old girl, E.R., had been shot in an upstairs bedroom. That bedroom belonged to D.W., Merchant’s 16 year old son. D.W. was present in his bedroom at the time of the shooting. Also present in the bedroom were J.H. and W.H., both 16 year old males.

The Complaint further alleges that the investigation revealed that at the time of the shooting, D.W. was an unlawful user of marijuana. Several associates of D.W.’s admitted to observing D.W. use marijuana in D.W.’s bedroom at some time during 2014 and 2015, prior to the shooting incident. A urine sample obtained on February 24, 2015, from D.W. tested positive for the presence of marijuana. During a subsequent interview, D.W. admitted to first smoking marijuana at the age of 14, and becoming a regular marijuana user at age 15.

Allegations in the Complaint also state that when Merchant provided the firearm to D.W. on or about February 23, 2015, she knew and had reasonable cause to believe, that D.W. was then an unlawful user of marijuana. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that on the night of the shooting, police observed indicators of drug and alcohol use in plain view in D.W.’s bedroom. That night, from D.W.’s bedroom police seized a marijuana smoking pipe, drug paraphernalia, approximately seven ounces of marijuana individually packaged into eight separate plastic bags, and drug packaging materials. During a subsequent interview, Merchant admitted to police that she was aware that D.W. was a marijuana user.

If convicted, Merchant faces a possible maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, $100 in special assessments, and three years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

“Federal law prohibits certain people from possessing guns and ammunition,” said U.S. Attorney Techau. “Identifying and prosecuting those who knowingly provide guns to prohibited persons is a priority of this office and an important part of keeping our communities safe.”

Merchant appeared today in federal court in Cedar Rapids and was held in custody of the United States Marshals Service pending a detention hearing. Merchant’s next appearance for her detention hearing is set for February 18, 2016.

As with any criminal case, a charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

This case was referred to the United States Attorney’s Office by local authorities and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lisa C. Williams. The case was investigated by the Vinton Police Department, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tabaco and Firearms.

Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.  The case file number is 16-MJ-31.

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