A US Navy veteran accused of murdering his wife and hiding her body in the fridge for two years before disposing of it in San Diego Bay was on Friday sentenced to 6 years to life in prison after jurors found him guilty of the crime. Prosecutors also allege he moved out of town not too long after dumping her body.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Matthew Sullivan was in 2020 found guilty of second-degree murder by a San Diego Superior Court jury for allegedly stabbing Elizabeth Sullivan at their residence in 2014. Sullivan, who has always maintained his innocence, was also charged with first-degree murder. He was, however, cleared of that.
Prior to the discovery of Elizabeth Sullivan’s body at San Diego Bay, her whereabouts were unknown for two years. On the day her body was found, prosecutors say Matthew was also moving out of the Liberty Station home they shared with their two children.
Narrating the motive behind the murder, San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Jill Lindberg alleged Sullivan killed his wife because of her infidelity and her intention to end their marriage, the Los Angeles Times reported. She had also allegedly withdrawn over $1,000 from their joint bank account.
Lindberg told the court the accused “murdered his wife in their home as their children were in the other room.”
“He made her look like the person who had abandoned her family, when that was not the case and he knew it,” Lindberg said, revealing that Sullivan also went as far as allowing their children to “twist in the wind and wonder what had happened to [their mother].”
But the attorney for Sullivan, Marcus DeBose, argued the victim was into drugs and did not always sleep at home, adding that she sometimes slept at a park around the neighborhood. DeBose also argued Sullivan had a clean criminal record and also shared details about his time serving as an officer with the US Navy till he was honorably discharged – suggesting he was not capable of committing such a crime. Sullivan, who addressed the court during the hearing, claimed he would be cleared of the murder had some defense witnesses been able to testify.
“There is clearly no remorse on the defendant’s part. He thinks he could have gotten a different verdict,” Lindberg replied to Sullivan’s argument.
Sullivan was linked to the murder after forensic tests determined blood that was found in a carpet as well as a wooden floor at the crime scene, matched that of the victim, the Los Angeles Times reported. A knife with samples of Elizabeth Sullivan’s blood was also found hidden in attic insulation in the home. Sullivan also allegedly purchased a carpet cleaner the day after his wife went missing, and did not call authorities to report her disappearance. It had to take a friend of the victim to report she was missing.
The accused’s lawyer, however, argued the blood traces found on the carpet was through Elizabeth Sullivan’s own doing, claiming that she had a habit of cutting herself when she was stressed and likely hid the knife to prevent people from getting to know.
The jury was, however, of a different opinion with their verdict.
“The jury verdict and the evidence at trial made it clear that Matthew Sullivan brutally murdered his wife, methodically cleaned up the messy murder site, and then hid the body for years,” Superior Court Judge Albert Harutunian III said during the sentencing on Friday. “He almost got away with it, but his final attempt to hide the body at the bottom of the bay failed.”