Va. Beach man found guilty of murdering ex-girlfriend with cyanide


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach man has been found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend by injecting her with cyanide.

Joseph Merlino III was convicted of first-degree murder by a Virginia Beach jury on Friday afternoon after a week-long trial. 

Following an hour and a half of deliberations, the judge read the jury’s verdict as Merlino sat expressionless. 

Joseph Merlino

Prosecutors called their last witness to the stand Friday morning. Lawyers for Merlino called five witnesses to testify — including Merlino himself. 

Earlier this week, the jury viewed video that prosecutors said showed Merlino injecting his ex-girlfriend, Ellie Tran, outside of her house on Valentine’s Day 2017.

An undercover Virginia Beach detective testified Thursday that Merlino’s laptop showed he researched cyanide. Some of the Google searches included: “what if cyanide gets in blood stream” and “how many milligrams of cyanide will kill you.”

Prosecutors then called a New Hampshire woman to the stand, who said she had a vintage steel syringe listed for sale on Etsy and someone purchased it in January 2017.

She sent the package to a pizza shop in Virginia Beach. The restaurant’s owner testified Merlino picked up the package there. 

Merlino’s lawyers say he was three hours away at his mom’s house in Victoria, Virginia, when Tran was attacked.

An FBI agent testified Merlino’s cellphone was in Victoria, Virginia, but did not have any cell phone activity from that night or the next morning.

Merlino’s defense also says there is no record of him purchasing cyanide. 

Merlino is about two months into a hunger strike. Deputies say he has lost 40 pounds.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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