Sentencing for man convicted of murdering ex-girlfriend delayed


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The sentencing for a man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend by injecting her with cyanide has been delayed.

WAVY’s Jason Marks reports Joseph Merlino III entered the courtroom in a wheelchair, and was foaming at the mouth and showing symptoms of a seizure. 

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Virginia Beach attorney Tim Anderson. “If somebody was having some kind of seizure in court, the first thing that would happen is that they would call 911.”

On Wednesday, a jail doctor testified there was nothing medically wrong with Merlino, but thought the condition could be caused by stress.Prosecutors asked Merlino if he was faking his condition.

“Everybody is probably of the belief that this is fake,” Anderson said. “It does seem coincidental that his symptoms went though before her death.”

The judge felt he had no choice but to delay Merlino’s sentencing until Monday.

Jurors recommended life in prison for Merlino after finding him guilty of first-degree murder at the end of a week-long trial

Prosecutors said video shown during the trial shows Merlino inject his ex-girlfriend, Ellie Tran, with cyanide on Valentine’s Day 2017. Tran died the next day.

Merlino’s defense argued he wasn’t even in the area at the time. 

Merlino started a hunger strike earlier this year, saying he felt like he was treated as guilty until proven innocent. He ended the strike about two weeks after he was convicted.

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