Court hearing for man accused of poisoning estranged wife with cyanide

A man accused of murdering his estranged wife appeared in court Thursday morning.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- A man accused of murdering his estranged wife appeared in court Thursday morning.

Joseph Merlino is accused of poisoning Ellie Tran on Valentine's Day.

During Thursday's hearing, prosecutors presented video evidence of the night Tran was allegedly pricked with a cyanide needle. Tran later died at the hospital.

Tran's mother, Oanh Le, took the stand and described the night of the incident.

She sobbed as she looked at the video that was shot outside her home, identifying Merlino. 

"Oh my daughter! Oh my daughter!" cried Le. "She was terrified."

Defense attorney, Richard Doummar, raised question over if it was his client in the video or not.

"I think you'll have doubts as to who it is," said Doummar.

Doummar claimed Le had a troubled relationship with Merlino, saying the mother was a defendant in an assault case involving the two. 

"In this case, we have, I think, as unfortunate as this case is, bias," Doummar said. "There is some dislike. They're not happy with each other."

Le denied she assaulted Merlino. 

Following the testimony, the judge certified the second degree murder charge against Merlino. He remains in jail without bond.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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