Former Stanley Middle School teacher Michael Merrick ended a city's speculation and may have eased a family's pain with an eleventh hour plea agreement that will see him sent to state prison for molesting a female student under his tutelage in 2010.
Merrick, 48, was scheduled for court trial on the charges Monday. Instead, he pleaded guilty to six felony counts in court Friday and was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison. He will be required to register as a sex offender.
The popular and respected teacher was arrested in October 2010 after admitting to letting a relationship with a 14-year-old girl "get out of hand" during private tutoring sessions on school property.
Investigators determined that the teacher had sent hundreds of text messages to the victim and eventually initiated a physical relationship with her.
On Friday, the former teacher told the court he took full responsibility for the molestation, and apologized to the victim and the community for violating a position of trust, Deputy District Attorney Johanna Schonfield said.
Merrick was ordered to pay restitution to the victim and to register as a lifetime sex offender.
He will be on parole upon his release from prison.
Bay City News Service contributed to this report