He says he did it. Michael ballard has admitted to carrying out one of the most horrific crimes this area has ever seen.
Today he pleaded guilty to murdering four people last year in northampton. But his admission of guilt may not be enough to spare his own life. We'll hear from the victims' families in a moment... First wfmz's bo koltnow begins our coverage with more on what happened in court. Bo?
In court michael ballard admittedthat last june 26th he showed up up at the home of 39 year old denise merhi in northampton to kill her. He then admitted he killed denise, her father, grandfather and neighbor by stabbing them repeatedly with a knife.
Reporter: in a northampton county courtroom michael ballard pleaded guilty to four counts of murder in the first degree. Each count carries a minimum life sentence.. But could also mean the death penalty. It was last june 26th when ballard killed his girlfriend denise mehri.. Her father 6year old dennis marsh.. Merhi's grandfather 87 year old alvin marsh.. And neighbor 53 year old steven zernhelt. Ballard was caught after he crashed denise's car after the crime. In court northampton county district attorney john morganelli said the crime was premeditated... That ballard was acting as a jilted lover. On the stand.. The lead investigator testified ballard bought a knife at a pawn shop.. And that ballard consumed alcohol on the way to merhi's home. At the time of the murders ballard had been on parolefor killing an allentown man in 1991.
Ballard also admitted alcohol did not play a factor the crime.. And during sentencing he is not pleading insanity. Jury selection here in northampton county begins may 2nd. District attorney john morganelli says he is seeking the death penalty.
Dozens of the victims' family members packed the courthouse today.
They talked to 69 news about the nightmare they've enduredsince that fateful day last june. Wfmz's will lewis is at the courthouse with more on their reaction to the guilty plea.
As you can imagine a very emotional time for the family as they sat and listened to michael ballard admit he murdered denise merhi, dennis marsh, alvin marsh and steve zernhelt.
Geraldine dorwart, denise merhi's mother "i have no statements about michael. I don't even use that word."
Reporter the families of denise mehri and steven zernhelt met with northampton district attorney john morganelli a half hour before the trial started and while they may not have known the range of emotions the hour long trl would bring they did thank those that have helped them.
Geraldine dorwart, denise merhi's mother "we are truly, really honored to have some one in our state of pennsylvania, a trooper like trooper judge, and i want to say thank you to him, and a great job by morganelli."
Reporter in the courtroom close to fifty family members listen to the evidence presented. Some listened emotionless while others cried, and even one family member ran from the courtroom cursing at michael ballard after ballard finally confessed to the brutal stabbing deaths of denise merhi, alvin marsh, dennie marsh and steve zernhelt.
Jared stahler, denise merhi's cousin "it's a shame we had to go through seven months until he would plead guilty. The rest is now in god's hands.
Reporter the family will still have to go through the penalty phase for ballard's sentencing, but they know that together they will get through that as well.
"it's a very large loving family and we've really come together in this time."
In ... Will lewis.. 69 news.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley 69 News