Newly unsealed court documents in Valentine's Day murder investigation

Newly unsealed court documents reveal Joseph Merlino and Ellie Tran had a turbulent relationship before she died from cyanide poisoning.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- Newly unsealed court documents reveal Joseph Merlino and Ellie Tran had a turbulent relationship before she died from cyanide poisoning.

Documents reveal Merlino and Tran were in the middle of a custody dispute, with Merlino barred by the court from seeing their child.

Police say Tran filed two police reports against Merlino. The first was filed on July 11, 2016, after “Merlino threatened to kill her and bury her body.” Merlino was then arrested.

The second report was filed on December 4, 2016, in which Tran reported that “Merlino had approached her dressed as a woman and threw some type of liquid in her face.” The “caustic substance” caused “her eyes to burn,” according to the documents.

Search warrants show police seized multiple blue plastic containers with various chemicals/substances, multiple firearms and ammunition from Merlino’s Virginia Beach home.

Officers also seized “a blue bottle containing a white substance” from Merlino’s electronic repair shop in Virginia Beach.

Merlino is charged with second degree murder. His trial is set for October 31.

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