Merlin Santana (14 March, 1976 – 9 November, 2002) was an American actor best known for his role as the romantic rival of Keshia Knight Pulliam's admirer, Stanley, on The Cosby Show and the high school student, Romeo Santana on the sitcom The Steve Harvey Show.
Born in New York to parents from the Dominican Republic, Santana was encouraged to pursue a career in entertainment by his mother - she not only thought he had talent, but also wanted to keep him off the city's tough streets.
Her instinct was right: his first job came when he was three and was hired as a model for a fast food restaurant ad. His first on-screen appearance came as an extra in the Woody Allen film, The Purple Rose of Cairo.
Santana first came to public attention as Stanley, the faithful admirer of little Rudy Huxtable and a recurring cast member on the hit series The Cosby Show. He later joined the casts of the comedy Getting By and James Earl Jones drama Under One Roof.
Santana's other credits include guest appearances on NYPD Blue, Law & Order, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, a recurring role in Moesha and Major Dad. He appeared in the PBS special Harambee and on the daytime dramas All My Children and As the World Turns.
He later landed a recurring role as Stanley, a persistent pre-teen vying for the adoration of the young Rudy Huxtable in the premiere television comedy series of the 80's - The Cosby Show.
After this experience, Santana was cast as a sharp-tongued 15-year-old in the ABC sitcom Getting By, starring Cindy Williams and Thelma Hopkins. He also appeared in the film Flossin, and previously, the film The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez.
On 9 November, 2002, Santana was shot six times in the head while sitting in a parked car in South Los Angeles. He was 26 years old.
Damien Andre Gates was later convicted of the first-degree murder of Santana and the attempted murder of another man in the car, and was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences plus 70 years in prison.
Brandon Douglas Bynes received a 23-year sentence after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon.
An officer involved in the case testified that Monique King, reportedly Gates' girlfriend and aged 15 at the time of Santana's death, falsely claimed that Santana had tried to rape her, which prompted Gates and Bynes to attack the car.
King received eight years in juvenile custody.