Merlin Santana was born in New York on March 14, 1976 to parents from the Dominican Republic. He attended Acenscion Catholic School in New York. His career in show business began with a push from his mother, who recognized her son's talent and wanted to keep him off the tough streets of New York. Her instinct was right, and Santana has been working steadily ever since. He began his career at the age of 3 as an advertising model for a fast food chain. His first screen appearance was as an extra in the Woody Allen film "The Purple Rose of Cairo."
He later landed the recurring role of Stanley, the faithful admirer of young Rudy Huxtable, on the hit comedy series "The Cosby Show." Santana was then cast as a sharp-tongued 15-year-old in the comedy series "Getting By," starring Cindy Williams and Thelma Hopkins.
He chose to keep his last name of Santana to represent his AfoLatino heritage. In one episode of The Steve Harvey show marked the first time when Afro-Latinos communicated in Spanish on a commercial network. The episode was about Romeo being taken out of school by his father.
He has three unreleased CDs that he has made and was in the 1999 Alaye calender.
He now plays Romeo Santana on the Steve Harvey Show for the WB. It should be noted that this is probably around the same time that he got his tattoo on his chest. He also represents the small number of Latino actors in the television industry proudly.
He appeared in the VH1 movie Play'd with Toni Braxton and Rashaan Nall as a rapper and had a role in Eddie Murphy's failure SHowtime. His last television acting role was on Half & Half as a singer.
His last film role was Carlos in The Blues with his former television brother, Deon Richmond. It was filmed months before his death.
On November 9, 2002 at 2:30 AM. Merlin was sitting in a park car and a person appraoched the car and shot him (6 times according to one source). He was DOA before help could come to his aid. The public did not find out until Monday morning. A woman was arrested early on Monday for possible connections to the murder. She was later charged and the police are currently looking for two men. He was buried 11-18-2002 and leaves behind a 7 year old daughter. AllHIPHOP.com features a story that may have lead to his death. It is believed the young girl set him up to be robbed, but the end result was Merlin's death.
LOS ANGELES – A 16-year-old girl who yesterday was found unfit to be tried as a juvenile was charged as an adult today, accused of murder and attempted murder in connection with last fall's fatal shooting of actor Merlin Santana, the District Attorney's office announced.
Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum of the Major Crimes Division said Monique King, also known as LaDawn Taylor and Mercedes Brown (dob 2-11-1987), is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow in Division 30 of Los Angeles Superior Court. She has been in juvenile custody since her arrest last year.
Brown is charged in case No. BA 248689 with one count each of murder and attempted murder on Nov. 9, 2002. The complaint also alleged a principal was armed with a rifle and a handgun during commission of the crimes. Bail was recommended at million.
Also charged with Santana's murder are Damien Andre Gates, 21, and Brandon Douglas Bynes, 24. The men were arrested and charged on Nov. 25, 2002, with murder and attempted murder of another man who was with the actor. Their case (BA 239349) has been moving toward trial and a pre-trial conference is scheduled for July 10. They remain in custody on million bail each.
The case of the teenage girl, who was 15 when arrested in November of last year, has been pending the fitness hearing in juvenile court. After the court ruling declaring her unfit, Hum filed the case against her today in adult court.
Santana, 26, of North Hollywood, was shot in the head and killed as he and a friend were in a car leaving another man's home in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles on Nov. 9, 2002. The complaint against Gates and Bynes alleged that Gates fired a rifle and Bynes a handgun during the attack on the co- star of television's "Steve Harvey Show."
If convicted, the defendants face possible terms of life in prison with the chance of parole.
March 2004 revealed the fates of the three killers. All three were foudn guilty of killing Merlin. Monique got the others to kill Merlin because she lied about him making sexual comments towards her. The two men are now serving 25 years in jail without parole. Monique will get her sentence at a later date.