Search warrants unsealed in Virginia Beach cyanide murder investigation

Posted at 2:26 PM, Oct 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-25 14:27:25-04

VIRGINIA BEACH - Nine months after police say Ellie Tran was injected in the leg with cyanide and killed, search warrants relating to her death are unsealed.

According to the documents, police searched two places following Tran's February death, her estranged husband's home and his Oceanfront cell phone repair business. Joseph Merlino III was arrested after Tran's death, he has been behind bars while awaiting his trial.

Search warrants from Merlino's home say police were looking for clothing, electronics, and any kind of hazardous substance at the property. According to the search warrants, they took electronic devices, memory cards, DVDs, sneakers, documents, firearms, ammunition, keys and multiple blue plastic containers with various chemicals/substances.

At Merlino's business, search warrants say they confiscated paperwork, computers, hard drives, tablets, recording devices, USB storage drives and more blue bottles containing a white substance. Along with those items, documents say fake I-phones and Otterbox cell phone cases were found at the store.

According to search warrants, after investigators took the substances from Merlino's home and business they contacted an FBI special agent who has a specialization in chemical substances. The agent told police that cyanide can come in both powder and crystal form.

Merlino's trial is scheduled to begin on October 31st. He has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation and court proceedings. Merlino's attorney says his client was several hours away in another part of the state when Tran was killed.

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