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Press Release

Vinton Woman Who Provided Rifle Used in Fatal Shooting Sentenced to 46 Months Imprisonment

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa

A woman who illegally provided a rifle to her minor child was sentenced today to more than three years in federal prison.

Robyn Lynn Merchant, a/k/a Robyn Lynn Winterroth, 53, from Vinton, Iowa, received the prison term after a May 23, 2016, guilty plea to transferring a firearm to a prohibited person (a drug user).

Evidence at the guilty plea hearing and other court proceedings showed that on February 23, 2015, Merchant provided her 16-year-old son with a Walther HK MP5 .22 caliber rifle. The following day, police responded to Merchant’s residence in Vinton after receiving a 911 call that a shooting had taken place. When police arrived, they discovered that a 14-year-old girl had been shot in an upstairs bedroom. That bedroom belonged to Merchant’s 16-year-old son. Merchant’s son was present in his bedroom at the time of the shooting. Also present in the bedroom were two additional 16-year-old males. The 14-year-old girl eventually passed away as a result of the gunshot wound.

At the time Merchant provided her son with the firearm, he was an unlawful user of marijuana. Her son regularly used marijuana in Merchant’s home, and a urine sample obtained from him the night of the shooting tested positive for marijuana. The night of the shooting, police saw evidence of recent drug and alcohol use in plain view in Merchant’s son’s bedroom. Police eventually seized a marijuana smoking pipe, drug paraphernalia, approximately seven ounces of marijuana individually packaged into eight separate plastic bags, and drug packaging materials from the bedroom.  

During the investigation, law enforcement learned that Merchant and her son conspired with each other to distribute marijuana from their residence. Some of their customers included other high school students who were friends of Merchant’s son. 

Merchant was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Chief Judge Linda R. Reade. Merchant was sentenced to 46 months imprisonment.  A special assessment of $100 was imposed. She must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

“From any perspective, this case is a terrible tragedy,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin W. Techau. “A 14-year-old girl is dead – and a mother is going to prison – because the mother provided her drug-using son with a gun. This case demonstrates why guns and drugs are a deadly combination.” 

Merchant is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until she can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lisa C. Williams and investigated by the Vinton Police Department, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the Department of Homeland Security, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 16-CR-0017.

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Updated October 25, 2016

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses