This month, Matthew Sullivan was found guilty of murdering his wife, hiding her body in a freezer and then dumping it in San Diego Bay before skipping town.
According to the Los Angeles Times, prosecutors believe the former Navy sailor fatally stabbed Elizabeth Sullivan, 32, in their Liberty Station home in October 2014, and in 2020 a San Diego Superior Court jury found him guilty of second-degree murder.
While Sullivan, 35, continues to maintain his innocence, Friday, Superior Court Judge Albert Harutunian III, who presided over the trial, handed down a sentence of 16 years to life in prison.
“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,” Harutunian said. “He almost got away with it, but his final attempt to hide the body at the bottom of the bay failed.”
Authorities say that on Oct. 4, 2014, Sullivan, who was getting out of the military and relocating to the East Coast, was moving out of the home that the couple shared with their two children when his wife’s body was found in San Diego Bay.
Mrs Sullivan had been missing for two years by then and at trial, San Diego County Deputy Dist. Atty. Jill Lindberg hypothesized that Sullivan killed his wife because she had been unfaithful and was planning to leave the marriage altogether.
Substantiating this theory is the fact that records show the deceased had taken over $1K out of their joint bank account prior to her disappearance.
During Friday’s sentencing, Lindberg argued that Sullivan had “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, noting that the accused had allowed the children to “twist in the wind and wonder what had happened to [their mother]” for years with no real closure.
Sullivan’s attorney, Marcus DeBose, countered that Elizabeth Sullivan had abused drugs, and had a dangerous habit of sleeping in a nearby park instead of coming home some evenings. DeBose also pointed out that his client had no history of crime and had even been a Boy Scout as a child in Minnesota.
But evidence presented at trial included a blood-soaked carpet and the wooden floor underneath it with a knife found in the insulation in the attic of the couple’s home. Sullivan’s lawyer countered that his wife was a cutter and likely had hidden the knife herself so that no one would know.
Matthew, however, never reported his wife missing. A friend alerted authorities that she was gone.
Prosecutors were also able to show that Matthew Sullivan purchased carpet cleaner a day after Elizabeth disappeared. She was found in the same clothes she had been last seen in, according to CBS8, and injuries to her ribs and a fractured jaw and nose were consistent with the alleged murder.
in the initial investigation, cadaver dogs at the couple’s home alerted police to a dead body on the property but a freezer in the garage was empty and without a body, no arrest could be made at that time. Police believe the body was moved.
The lawyer went on to opine that the absence of a criminal record, factored in with his client’s eight years in the Navy – from which he was honorably discharged in 2016 – painted a picture of a man incapable of the heinous acts he was being accused of.
Sullivan himself made a brief statement during the hearing, speculating that his defense witnesses not being available to testify on his behalf, played a significant part in him being found guilty.
“I firmly believe their testimony would have changed the verdict in this trial,” he said, to which Lindberg responded: “There is clearly no remorse on the defendant’s part. He thinks he could have gotten a different verdict.”
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