The 30-year-old man who killed his former girlfriend by injecting her with a fatal dose of cyanide on Valentine’s Day last year has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
Joseph Merlino III was officially found guilty for killing his former girlfriend, 35-year-old Ellie Tran, after deliberations on Friday when he attacked the victim with a syringe filled with a lethal dose of cyanide on Feb. 14, 2017, according to Virginia-Pilot. A jury recommended life in prison during his sentencing on Monday. A judge will formally sentence him on September 26, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
Tran, who is the mother of Merlino’s daughter, was attacked on her driveway while walking to her door at around 8:00 p.m. on Valentine’s Day last year. Merlino jumped out and injected her with the syringe containing cyanide in her left buttock, which resulted in her death the next day.
This attack was captured by a surveillance camera outside Tran’s home.
She was the provider for her family, including her 2-year-old daughter Jolie and her two elderly parents who came to America from Vietnam several years prior.
“She was full of life, very beautiful and…now she’s gone. It’s so heartbreaking. Of course, I’m devastated,” her mother, Oanh Ly, told WTKR. “In all, she was very sweet and kind. She took great care of us since we’re older. She would remind me to take my medication. She’s my piece of gold.”
Merlino was one of the five witnesses that were called in to appear in court. The suspect denied his involvement in the case when he was asked by Assistant Public Defender Sarah Murphy if he killed Ellie.
The suspect spent most of his time in the witness stand answering heated questions involving the evidence gathered during the police investigation.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Janee Joslin pressed heavy hitting questions at the time including the discovery of internet searches related to cyanide and the purchase of a stainless steel syringe worth $68 that he picked up several days later at a pizza place that he frequently visits.
“You were a very, very busy guy on the 24th of January (2017) – would you agree?” Joslin asked the suspect at the stand, referring to the internet searches “How many milligrams of cyanide will kill you?” and “What if cyanide gets injected?”
He denied these allegations, saying that the MacBook belonged to his cellphone repair business, which many people had access to. Merlino also denied that he had never heard of the Etsy website – the online store where he bought the syringe.
Merlino, however, admitted that he sent out coded messages to his new girlfriend, and his mother, who did not appear in court, in the defense that jail staff stole and failed to send out his letters numerous times. He also denied the allegation that the letters contain messages asking the women to fabricate evidence for him.
Feature Image (left) via Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office | (right) via GoFundMe