Lehigh Valley

Notorious killer says he's ready to die

Michael Ballard wants the Supreme Court to ignore his appeals

Notorious killer says he's ready to die

One of the Lehigh Valley's most notorious killers says he's ready to die.

Michael Ballard says he's not interested in continuing to appeal his death sentence.

Ballard sent a letter to the United States Supreme court asking the justices to reject his current appeal.

"I never authorized anyone to file anything on my behalf. I'm not appealing this sentence any further than it has been," Ballard allegedly wrote in a letter, which Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli read to 69 News.

"It is my most ardent plea that ask now (sic) of you that the appeal filed be rejected summarily," the letter went on.

In 2011, Michael Ballard was convicted of stabbing his ex-girlfriend Denise Merhi, her father Dennis Merhi, her grandfather Alvin Merhi, and a neighbor Steven Zernhelt in Northampton.
The federal appeal of the death penalty was filed last month by an attorney with Philadelphia-based Atlantic Center for Capital Representation.

"They don't represent clients, they represent causes," Morganelli told 69 News.

Morganelli says the firm has done the same thing in other death penalty cases, but he's not ruling out that this could also be part of a plan by Ballard himself to get back in the spotlight.

"This could be a tactic of Ballard, but we have to see. I think what we have to see is Ballard in a courtroom, in front of a judge being queried by the judge and the judge making an evaluation for himself and I think that will happen in the near future," Morganelli said.

Until then, the court and attorneys are left with the words of Michael Ballard written from a prison cell.

"Lastly but most importantly they are acting against my own wishes to waive my appeals," signed Michael Ballard.

Calls to the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation were not immediately returned.

A family member of one of Michael Ballard's victims spoke out in an interview with 69 News Tuesday.

David Zernhelt is the brother of Steven Zernhelt.

Police say Steven was killed when he rushed to the aid of Ballard's other victims.

David Zernhelt says he believes justice was served when Ballard was given the death penalty.

"To me, that was the right justice. He took the life of four innocent victims who had families and it's just devastating to the families," Zernhelt said.

"I think if he doesn't appeal the death sentence that he was given that it may help bring closure finally for all the families," he went on.

Steven Zernhelt was honored posthumously for his heroism as a recipient of the Carnegie Medal in 2012.

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