Allentown
59° F
Overcast
Overcast
 

Charges Filed In Quadruple Murder

By Joscelyn Moes
Published On: Aug 25 2011 02:18:18 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 28 2010 10:01:18 AM CDT
NORTHAMPTON, Pa. -

A man has been charged with stabbing four people to death inside a home over the weekend.

Michael Ballard is accused of killing Denise Merhi, her father, her grandfather, and a neighbor who ran to their aid when he heard their cries for help.

Investigators said Ballard, 36, of Allentown, has been out of prison only a few months.

According to court records, he pleaded guilty to murdering a man back in Allentown in 1992.

It was a very difficult crime scene to see these individuals essentially slaughtered, said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli.

Police were called to the home at 1917 Lincoln Avenue in Northampton, Northampton County around 4:45 Saturday afternoon.

When they got there, they said they found a gruesome scene in which the four victims were stabbed to death.

Merhi, 39; her father, Dennis Marsh, 62; her grandfather Alvin Marsh, 87; and their neighbor, Steven Zernhelt, 53.

Investigators said Zernhelt went next door after hearing cries for help.

He certainly was a good Samaritan looking to assist the other victims, said Lt. Brian Tobin.

He was like a hero to anyone he would want to help, said Zernhelt's brother, David Zernhelt. And he definitely had an impact on people's lives that he did try to help.

Investigators said minutes after the first officers arrived at the scene, a call came in about a car crash near Route 329 and Savage Road in Allen Township.

It turned out Ballard was driving the car.

According to court records, when police asked him what happened, he replied, "It's obvious. I just killed everyone."

Ballard was taken to St. Luke's Hospital for treatment. He was arraigned there.

Investigators said he had some type of relationship with Merhi, although they're still looking into it.

According to court records, Ballard pleaded guilty to homicide in 1992 and was sentenced to 10-20 years behind bars.

Investigators said he was recently released from prison, although it's not clear if he was released on charges stemming from the '92 homicide.

Neighbors told us Merhi had two young children.

Investigators said they were not home at the time of the attack. They are being cared for by relatives.

District Attorney John Morganelli said he will seek the death penalty for Ballard.