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A former U.S. Navy sailor who was convicted by a San Diego jury of murdering his wife over six years ago was sentenced to more than a decade in prison last week.
Matthew Sullivan, 36, was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder of his wife, Elizabeth Sullivan. A San Diego superior court judge handed down the sentence on Friday.
"The jury verdict and the evidence at trial makes clear that Matthew Sullivan brutally murdered his wife, methodically cleaned up the messy murder site and then hid the body for years,” Judge Albert Harutunian III said, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “He almost got away with it but his final attempt to hide the body at the bottom of the bay failed.”
Elizabeth Sullivan vanished in October 2014. For years, her remains had gone undiscovered. In 2016, her decomposing body was found submerged in a San Diego bay, roughly half a mile from where she was last seen, NBC San Diego reported. She’d been stabbed several times.
Matthew Sullivan, who’d been a person of interest at the time, moved away from San Diego the week his wife’s body was discovered, prosecutors said. He was extradited from Delaware back to California in early 2018, court records show. Sullivan’s trial began on Feb. 21; he was found guilty earlier this month.
At trial, prosecutors detailed how the couple’s “whirlwind romance” spiraled into a pattern of domestic violence that ended in murder after Sullivan learned his wife was supposedly having an affair. The knife used in her killing was later found by investigators in the attic of the couple’s former Liberty Station home.
“As the evidence showed in court, the marriage was in trouble and had been for some time,” Deputy District Attorney Jill Lindberg told Oxygen.com. “There had been some domestic violence committed by Matthew Sullivan against his wife, Elizabeth a few months prior to her murder.”
Sullivan sat silent and emotionless for most of his sentencing while family members addressed the court.
"This man killed my dear friend and you can imagine how this affected me," Nathan Caracter said. "But a longer sentence won’t make the pain go away, nor will my recanting of sorrow I have gone through these past six years make this man feel differently than he does now.”
Speaking to the court, Sullivan criticized the state’s case and the witness selection process.
"I believe I was not allowed to call in relevant witnesses to my defense," Sullivan said. "I thoroughly believe their testimony would've thoroughly changed the verdict in this trial."
The prosecutor chastised Sullivan in court for having “no remorse.”
“The defendant has never shown any sign of remorse for what happened to his wife for what he did to her or to her family and friends by letting them believe for two years that she’s just left,” Lindberg added.
Elizabeth Sullivan’s friends and relatives said she was “loved by many.” The couple had two daughters together.
“This sentence will do nothing to fix that [she's gone], however, it may help pack the chasm left behind by the demonic act of Matthew Sullivan," Elizabeth Sullivan's godsister, Calandra Duckett, also said at the sentencing.
It’s unclear if Sullivan plans to appeal his sentence. Marcus DeBose, Sullivan’s defense attorney, didn’t immediately return to Oxygen.com’s request for comment on Monday.
Sullivan was discharged from the Navy in 2016, according to a spokesperson for the military branch.
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