Columbia man jailed on child exploitation charges

Columbia man jailed on child exploitation charges
Aaron Merritt

A Columbia man is behind bars and facing a $150,000 bond on two counts of child exploitation.

Aaron Merritt, 26, of Columbia was arrested Saturday by members of the Marion County Sheriff's Department and Attorney General's office investigators when he arrived to allegedly meet a juvenile.

Merritt made his initial appearance today in a Marion County Court, where he was given a $75,000 bond for each of the two charges.

"We had recently gotten some information from citizens in the community about a person trying to reach out to younger kids, and talk with them," said Marion County Sheriff's Department investigator Jamie Singley.

According to Singley, Merritt was allegedly using multiple forms of communication to interact with what he believed to be a juvenile, who turned out to be an undercover officer.

"This is not something that is a big problem in our community but when it does come up, we always peruse it and handle the case as needed," said Singley.

Singley added they would like to give credit to the Attorney General's office for making their resources available through the course of the investigation.