Virginia Beach Valentine’s Day cyanide murder case headed to grand jury

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The case against a Virginia Beach man accused of poisoning his wife to death with cyanide on Valentine's Day will head to the grand jury, according to a tweet from Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney Colin Stolle.

Joseph Merlino

Joseph Merlino was in a Virginia Beach court on Thursday for a preliminary hearing.

Prosecutors say Ellie Tran was attacked Valentine’s Day in her driveway by Joseph Merlino who grabbed her and injected the poison into her leg. Merlino and Tran were estranged but had a daughter together. The attack was caught on surveillance video and Tran's mother Oanh Le identified Merlino as the attacker.

That surveillance video was shown in court on Thursday.

Le also testified Thursday, saying she was home when the attack happened. She cried out when the video was shown in the courtroom, sobbing "Oh, my daughter, my daughter!"

Le told the judge that before telling her to call for an ambulance, Tran said Merlino had stabbed her and that she was hurt and numb.

In a previous bond hearing, a judge did not grant Merlino bond, saying the charges were too serious. Merlino’s attorney maintained his client’s innocence, saying he was not in the area at the time of the crime.

"[Merlino] was two and a half to three hours away when the crime took place," he said. "We intend to produce evidence to prove that at the appropriate time."

Prosecutors said Tran was living in fear of Merlino. They described other incidents, saying Merlino is under investigation for an attack in December when someone threw a caustic substance at Tran and tried to inject her with something.

Prosecutors also said Merlino was planning to leave the country. He bought a plane ticket to China, where he had a fiancee, they said. He was in the process of liquidating his assets, as well.

 

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