He killed his girlfriend by injecting her with cyanide. Now this man is facing life in prison

VIRGINIA BEACH — Following a five-day trial, a Virginia Beach jury found Joseph “Joey” Vincent Merlino III, 30, guilty of first-degree murder on Friday, according to a news release from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle.

The jury recommended a life sentence and a $100,000 fine — the maximum sentence under the law.

The jury deliberated for only 15 minutes before delivering the verdict, said Kristina Hopkins, spokeswoman for Stolle’s office.

Merlino killed his estranged girlfriend and mother of his child, Ellie Tran, by injecting cyanide into her on Valentine’s Day 2017.

Related story: ‘She was so scared of him’: Friends recall relationship between murdered mother and accused ex

According to the news release, security cameras from Tran’s home on Still Meadow Court showed Merlino waiting for Tran. As she approached her front door, Merlino ran up behind her and injected her with a substance.

Prosecutors said Tran became comatose within minutes of being injected, and died on Feb. 15 at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital of “cyanide poisoning.”

Related story: ‘My boyfriend scared me’: Murdered mother filed assault charge months before her death

Circuit Court Judge Les L. Lilley, who presided over the trial, will sentence Merlino on Sept. 26.

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