Episode 93 Murder in Brooksville: Who Killed Rick and Dori?

On May 9, 1981, Ricky Merrill and Dori Colyer left Hilltop Lounge in Brooksville, Florida. They never returned. 40 years on, their families are still waiting for justice

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Rick Merrill and Dori Colyer were best friends whose lives were cut short far too soon. 

On May 8th, 1981, the two met up at a lounge in Brooksville, Florida. Around 1am, they told friends they were headed out to score some drugs and would return in about half an hour. 

Ninety minutes later, the Hernando County Fire Department responded to what they believed to be a call about a brush fire near Stafford Avenue in Brooksville. They found a car on fire and when the flames were extinguished, discovered the bodies of 24 year old Rick and 20 year old Dori in the car . 

Image Source: RickandDori.com

The coroner found the victims had been injected with drugs and both were alive when the car was set on fire. Initially the fire would be ruled accidental. Months later authorities listed the fire as arson and the deaths of Rick and Dori as murder. Four suspects were identified but 40 years on their families are still waiting for justice.

From all we know Rick and Dori’s case, it’s never looked like a whodunnit. There are solid suspects but investigators need solid tips and leads to have the evidence they need to get indictments.

The window for justice remains open.

If you or someone you know has any information related to Rick and Dori’s case, you can submit an anonymous tip at HernandoCountyCrimeStoppers.com or contact Detective George Loydgren at the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office: 352-797-3714.

Dori’s sister, Diane Woedl, is also asking for websleuths and citizen detectives to help her solve this mystery. If want to learn more about Rick and Dori’s case, you can head to the prime source for this episode….rickanddori.com where you can view a detailed crime timeline along with photos and articles about the case through the decades 

Image Source: St. Petersburg Times, May 10, 1981
Image Source: St. Petersburg Times, May 10, 1981

Episode Sources

Who Killed Rick Merrill and Dori Colyer? RickAndDori.com. 

Bodies found in burning car by Brooksville Firefighters. St. Petersburg Times. May 10, 1981 

Father of car’s owner fears worst. St. Petersburg Times/Hernando Times. May 12, 1981. 

Families complain of delay in identifying bodies. Tampa Bay Times. May 14, 1981.

Services planned, but car-fire victims’ identities still unconfirmed. Tampa Bay Times. May 15, 1981. 

Identities confirmed of 2 found in burning car. Tampa Bay Times. May 16, 1981.

Cause of death still unknown in care fire. St Petersburg Times, Hernando Times. May 19, 1981. 

Police have four suspects in murder of two persons found in burning car. St Petersburg Times/Hernando Times. August 1, 1981.

Quest remains unfulfilled as tragedy strikes again. St. Petersburg Times/Hernando Times. September 9, 1988.

Case of double murder, vehicle arson still cold after 38 years. Fox 13 Tampa. May 10, 2019. 

Deputies need your help solving 39-year-old Brooksville cold case. WTSP. May 8, 2020. 
Cold Cases: Ricky Merrill & Dori Colyer. Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. October 12, 2020.


Tranquility Base, Clean Soul, Slow Hammers, Virtutes Instrumenti, Drone in D by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Source: http://incompetech.com; Spirit of Fire by Jesse Gallagher. The Dark Glow of the Mountains by Chris Zabriske Licensed under Creative Commons.

Theme Song “Dark & Troubled” by Pantherburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use.