Navy veteran who murdered his wife then dumped her in San Diego Bay is jailed for 16 years to life 


Navy veteran who murdered his wife, hid her body in a freezer for two years and then dumped her in San Diego Bay is jailed for 16 years to life

  • Navy vet Matthew Sullivan maintains he did not kill his wife Elizabeth Sullivan
  • But last year, the 36-year-old was found guilty of second degree murder
  • He was sentenced to 16 years to life in a San Diego courtroom with Superior Court Judge Albert Harutunian III handing down the sentence on Friday
  • The mother of two daughters mysteriously went missing in October 2014
  • It is believed that Sullivan hid his wife’s body in a freezer for two years
  • But he tried to dispose of her body in the San Diego bay before moving east 

A navy veteran who murdered his wife and hid her body in a freezer for two years before dumping her in the San Diego Bay has been sentenced this week to 16 years to life in prison. 

Matthew Sullivan maintains he did not kill Elizabeth Sullivan, 32, whom prosecutors said he stabbed at their home in Liberty Station in October 2014.

But last year, a San Diego Superior Court jury found the 36-year-old guilty of second-degree murder, and he was sentenced in a San Diego courtroom with Superior Court Judge Albert Harutunian III handing down the sentence on Friday.

‘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.’ 

Sullivan's wife Elizabeth Sullivan, 32

Matthew Sullivan (left) maintains he did not kill Elizabeth Sullivan, 32 (right), whom prosecutors said he stabbed at their home in Liberty Station in October 2014. He has been sentenced to 16 years to life by a San Diego court

The mother of two daughters mysteriously went missing in October 2014 from the family’s San Diego home.

Prosecutor Jill Lindberg told jurors during the opening statements of the trial that Sullivan may have stabbed his wife five times after learning she was having an affair.

He then hid her body in the freezer until he had to remove it because he was moving to the east coast, Lindberg said, and he needed to dispose of it.

But in 2016, her decomposing body was found in the San Diego bay around half a mile from the family’s home, and investigators later found blood under her bedroom carpet and a knife hidden in the attic. 

When Sullivan was arrested in 2018 he was living in Delaware. 

Prosecutor Jill Lindberg told jurors during the opening statements of the trial that Sullivan (right) may have stabbed his wife (left) five times after learning she was having an affair

Prosecutor Jill Lindberg told jurors during the opening statements of the trial that Sullivan (right) may have stabbed his wife (left) five times after learning she was having an affair

Lindberg repeated in court on Friday 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. She added Sullivan had allowed his two daughters to ‘twist in the wind and wonder what had happened to’ Elizabeth. 

Sullivan served eight years in the U.S. Navy before he was honourably discharged in 2016 with the rank of petty officer. He was deployed overseas, including in the Middle East.

During the sentencing hearing, the veteran said that he felt he would not have been found guilty if he had better defence witnesses to testify for him.

‘I firmly believe their testimony would have changed the verdict in this trial,’ he said.

But Lindberg replied: ‘There is clearly no remorse on the defendant’s part. He thinks he could have gotten a different verdict.’ 

The mother of two daughters mysteriously went missing in October 2014 from the family's San Diego home. Pictured: The Sullivan's with one of their daughters and pregnant Elizabeth

The mother of two daughters mysteriously went missing in October 2014 from the family’s San Diego home. Pictured: The Sullivan’s with one of their daughters and pregnant Elizabeth

Sullivan was not the one to report his wife missing, rather it was one of her friends to make the report.

Detectives would later learn that Sullivan had bought carpet cleaner the day after she disappeared.

Forensic tests found Elizabeth Sullivan’s blood soaked into the wooden floor in her bedroom and the carpeting. The knife found in the attic also had traces of blood.

Sullivan’s attorney explained the blood in the carpet was a result of Elizabeth self-harming, and that she was also likely the one who hid the knife to hide it. 

After around 10 days of trial and roughly a day and half of deliberation, the jury reached their verdict last March, clearing Sullivan of first-degree murder, but finding him guilty of second-degree murder.

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