VIRGINIA BEACH — Joseph “Joey” Vincent Merlino III, the man a jury convicted in June for the first-degree murder of his estranged girlfriend, will serve life in prison.
Merlino was sentenced Monday. Prosecutors say he killed Ellie Tran, by injecting cyanide into her on Valentine’s Day 2017.
His attorneys argued that Merlino spend 20 to 34 years behind bars. The 31-year-old man maintained his innocence in the death of Tran. The two had a daughter.
Before his sentencing, Merlino lashed out in court against the media, prosecutors and his own defense.
Merlino’s sentencing was originally scheduled for last week. But it was postponed because he was unresponsive and foaming at the mouth when he was wheeled into court.
Merlino was on a hunger strike before his trial began and lost about 40 pounds. The strike ended shortly after the trial did.
According to the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, 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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.