Man accused of Valentine’s Day murder withdraws bond hearing

Posted at 8:46 AM, Feb 22, 2017

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Joseph Merlino III, the man accused of attacking and ultimately killing his estranged wife on Valentine's Day, was scheduled to appear for a bond hearing on Wednesday morning.

Minutes before the court proceeding began, his lawyer, Richard Doummar withdrew the motion.

"There is some evidence and some scientific evidence that I'm interested in and the Commonwealth is not in possession of yet, explained Doummar. "I want to wait until I get a clearer picture of certain issues surrounding this case."

Doummar tells News 3 his client is innocent and was planning on pleading not guilty this morning. Now Merlino will remain behind bars. The next step in the proceeding is for a date to picked for the preliminary hearing. Both sides have agreed to pick that date on March 7.

Nearly 30 friends and family of Ellie Tran went to the Virginia Beach Courthouse for Wednesday's bond hearing. Before the scheduled hearing they gathered outside the courthouse chanting "No Bail" and "Justice for Ellie Tran". They say they are happy that Merlino will remain behind bars.

"I think it's a good beginning for Ellie Tran and her family," said Ming Truong, a friend of the Tran family. "At this time we are very happy."

Joseph Merlino III was arrested last week . It was decided that the case would be heard in Juvenile Domestic Relations Court due to his relationship with 35-year-old Ellie Tran and the fact that they share a two-year-old daughter.

News 3 learned that Tran that this recent attack was not the only time that someone attacked her.

A coworker of Tran's, Loan Luu, says back on December 4th, a man dressed up as a woman ran into her car when she was trying to leave work, got out, and sprayed her with some kind of chemical liquid.

She says Tran was scared to walk to her car by herself.

"After work, her and I always go outside, I always go with her," she says.

Virginia Beach Police say they did take a report of the incident, but it is still under investigation and no arrests have been made.

Police say they are investigating every case that Tran was involved in thus far.

Merlino has appeared in court twice since his arrest but both times they were through video conferencing.

Court documents say Merlino did not use a firearm in the offense.

Last week, a large police presence including a swat team, hazmat crews and the Virginia Beach Fire Department were seen outside of Merlino's home.

Neighbors told News 3 they were evacuated from their home for a hazardous chemical found inside Merlino's home. Police have not said whether or not anything hazardous was found or taken from the home.