Michael Ballard was sentenced to death by the State of Pennsylvania for a quadruple murder. According to court documents Michael Ballard was recently released on parole after spending time in prison for a murder when he would stab to death his former girlfriend Denise Merhi, 39; her father, Dennis Marsh, 62; her grandfather, Alvin Marsh Jr., 87; and Steven Zernhelt, 53, who was a neighbor who came over to investigate the noise. Michael Ballard would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
Michael Ballard 2021 Information
|MICHAEL BALLARD||True Name|
|MICHAEL ERIC BALLARD||Commit Name|
Parole Number: 671DN
Date of Birth: 08/15/1973
Height: 6′ 01″
Current Location: PHOENIX
Permanent Location: PHOENIX
Committing County: LEHIGH
Michael Ballard More News
Tom Wolf on Wednesday halted the scheduled execution of Lehigh Valley mass murderer Michael Eric Ballard under a moratorium the governor has declared on capital punishment in the state.
Wolf granted a reprieve for Ballard, a five-time killer, as he has also done with three other convicted murders who were slated this year to face the death chamber. Wolf did so under a temporary freeze on executions he declared in February, when he called the death penalty “error prone, expensive and anything but infallible.”
Ballard was sent to death row for slaughtering four people inside a Northampton home in 2010 while on parole for a prior killing. He was scheduled to die by lethal injection Oct. 19, after he waived his rights to further appeals of his sentence.
Wolf intends to delay any imminent execution until after a Senate task force studying capital punishment releases its recommendations and they are “satisfactorily addressed,” said spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan, who offered no comment on Ballard’s case specifically.
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who has called Ballard a “poster boy” for the death penalty, said Wolf’s decision was not a surprise.
“The governor has made his position very clear,” said Morganelli, a Democrat, like Wolf. “I respect the governor’s position very much, but I disagree with it.”
Morganelli has argued that Wolf is overstepping his authority in issuing reprieves, an issue that is before the state Supreme Court under a legal challenge by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office. Morganelli has raised the possibility of suing Wolf in Ballard’s case, though he said Wednesday he has yet to decide whether to do so.
One of Ballard’s attorneys, James Connell, said the reprieve was unsurprising. Connell said he hopes the state repeals its death penalty without another execution in Pennsylvania, spurred by the moratorium and the Senate committee studying capital punishment.
“Every life is important,” Connell said. “What I’d like to see happen is that the governor’s commission comes back and the politicians have the guts to say, ‘We’re not going to execute anyone anymore.'”
By Ballard’s own account, he savagely knifed to death his former girlfriend, Denise Merhi, 39; her father, Dennis Marsh, 62; her grandfather, Alvin Marsh Jr., 87; and Steven Zernhelt, 53, a neighbor who heard screams and tried to help.
At the time of the June 26, 2010 massacre, Ballard had recently been released from prison, where he served 17 years for murdering an Allentown man nearly two decades earlier. The state Supreme Court upheld Ballard’s death sentence in 2013, citing overwhelming evidence in support of it.
That Ballard allowed his appellate rights to expire was no surprise. He’d instructed his lawyers not to file any more appeals on his behalf, and he called them pointless in a death-row interview last year with The Morning Call.
But Ballard later decided to join two lawsuits challenging the state’s lethal injection method, telling the newspaper he had no faith that Pennsylvania could competently carry out an execution. One of those suits, filed in Commonwealth Court, is unresolved, though Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano concluded in July that it wasn’t a basis for continuing to delay Ballard’s sentence.
Ballard, now 42, is jailed at Greene State Prison in southwestern Pennsylvania, which houses the state’s largest death row.