Valentine’s Day murder suspect’s trial expected to begin Tuesday

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The beginning of a trial for Joseph Merlino III on Tuesday could mean an end to his two-month hunger strike.

Merlino is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend 35-year-old Ellie Tran by injecting her with cyanide last Valentine’s Day. He was charged with second-degree murder after hazmat crews spent two days going through dangerous substances inside his house.

He has been in jail now for a little over a year and has not eaten anything in more than 60 days.

Merlino says he is innocent.

“What’s it like to being held for 15 months for something I didn’t do? The pain and anguish over the loss of a loved one I can’t even put into words,” Merlino said.

Sheriff Ken Stolle wants to force feed him to keep him alive. Stolle says staff must check on Merlino  every 15 minutes and it’s costing taxpayers $100,000 a week for care.

Stolle can’t force feed him until a judge gives him permission.

10 On Your Side will coverage of the trial later today. Stay tuned for more coverage.

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