NBC Dateline Episode to Concentrate on Homicide of Elizabeth Sullivan – NBC 7 San Diego
The disappearance and murder of a San Diego mother of two – Elizabeth Sullivan – in 2014 gripped San Diego. Now her case – and that of the man who killed her, husband Matthew Sullivan – will be the focus of a “Dateline” episode airing Friday night on NBC.
According to Dateline, the episode, which airs on NBC 7 at 9 p.m. PT, will provide a glimpse into how the investigation and case have unraveled over the past seven years and what really happened to Elizabeth Sullivan.
The episode, titled “Secrets by the Bay,” will feature an exclusive interview with Matthew Sullivan as well as evidence from the case that the public has not yet seen or heard. This includes 911 calls made by Matthew Sullivan on the day Elizabeth Sullivan was reported missing.
NBC 7’s Catherine Garcia has the verdict and details of Matthew Sullivan’s conviction.
Matthew Sullivan, guilty
Matthew Sullivan, 36, was convicted of second degree murder in the murder of his wife on March 12, 2021. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Elizabeth Sullivan – the mother of the couple’s two daughters – was 32 years old at the time of their disappearance and death. She died of stab wounds.
When he was sentenced in San Diego in March, Matthew Sullivan sat blankly while friends and family talked about his wife, “loved by many.”
A masked Matthew Sullivan sat blankly while friends and family talked about his wife, “loved by many,” when he was convicted on March 12, 2021.
Elizabeth Sullivan’s boyfriend, Nathan Caracter, spoke directly to Matthew Sullivan when he said his wife didn’t hate him.
“This man killed my dear friend and you can imagine how that affected me,” said Caracter. “But a longer sentence won’t make the pain go away, nor will my retraction of the grief I’ve been through for the past six years make this man feel different than he does now.”
Matthew Sullivan decided to make his own statement but did not address the crime he or his wife was accused of and instead called out what he thought were problems with his trial.
“The only problem I had with the trial was that I believed I could not bring any relevant witnesses to my defense,” he said. “I firmly believe that your testimony would have fundamentally changed the judgment in this process.”
Prosecutors sharply criticized Matthew Sullivan’s testimony when it asked a judge to sentence him to 16 years in prison without parole.
“There is clearly no remorse on the part of the defendant,” said the prosecutor. “He thinks he apparently could have passed a different verdict. He doesn’t feel the slightest sadness for what he’s done. He doesn’t deserve parole.”
The judge agreed with the prosecutors.
“The jury’s verdict and the evidence at the trial make it clear that Matthew Sullivan brutally murdered his wife, methodically cleaned up the messy murder site, and then hid the body for years. He almost got away with it, but his last attempt to hide the body on The bottom of the bay failed, “said the judge before giving his verdict.
NBC 7’s Claudette Stefanian was in the courtroom when the guilty verdict was read out for Matthew Sullivan, convicted of the murder of his wife.
The Disappearance and Killing of Elizabeth Sullivan
Elizabeth Sullivan was reported missing on October 14, 2014.
She was last seen the day before near Liberty Station in San Diego, where she lived with her family. A text message sent on October 13, 2014 was the last contact Elizabeth Sullivan had with loved ones before her phone was turned off.
The San Diego police searched unsuccessfully for the missing wife and mother of the Navy for two years. Day after day, week after week, the case grew cold as her family asked for her to return safely.
However, on October 6, 2016, a major breakthrough came.
That day – almost two years after her disappearance – Elizabeth Sullivan’s body was found swimming in San Diego Bay, about half a mile from the house the couple once shared with their daughters.
It was also the same day Matthew Sullivan moved from San Diego to Maryland with his new girlfriend, which according to prosecutors was no coincidence.
With the decomposition of Elizabeth Sullivan’s body, it would be another week before SDPD investigators could clearly identify her – and another year and a half before police could link Sullivan to her murder.
San Diego prosecutors believe Elizabeth Sullivan’s body was “hidden somewhere” before it was dumped in the bay.
Matthew Sullivan was identified as a suspect in the murder of his wife and arrested outside his home in Wyoming, Delaware on January 31, 2018. He was extradited to San Diego and finally admitted to George Bailey Detention Center in early February 2018 and stayed through his trial.
A year later, a major trial began with the preliminary hearing of Matthew Sullivan in February 2019. When details of Elizabeth Sullivan’s disappearance and death became known, a judge ruled that Matthew Sullivan would be on trial for her murder.
His trial began on February 21, 2020, and in March he was found guilty of the murder of Elizabeth Sullivan by a jury.
The murder trial
The murder trial of Matthew Sullivan began on February 21, 2020 with opening speeches and testimony from Elizabeth Sullivan’s family.
That first day of the trial, Matthew Sullivan sat in silence and looked down at the desk in front of him as Assistant District Attorney Jill Lindberg described how his “whirlwind romance” with the victim quickly led to domestic violence and ultimately murder.
One possible motive, according to prosecutors, during the opening speech was an extramarital affair Elizabeth Sullivan had, which Matthew Sullivan learned about about a month before his wife’s disappearance.
“He had many motives, he had the means, he had the opportunity,” said Lindberg. “The crime scene was in her bedroom. The murder weapon was in the attic above his bedroom. “
Lindberg showed the jury the knife Matthew Sullivan had stabbed his wife with. She said he stabbed her at least five times, hit several ribs and left a pool of blood on the floor of Elizabeth Sullivan’s bedroom.
The murder weapon was found in the attic of the house the couple shared in Liberty Station after Matthew Sullivan moved out.
Matthew Sullivan’s defense attorney Marcus Dubose painted the defendant as a man trying to hold onto a woman who withdrew and turned to a self-destructive lifestyle.
Dubose argued that the blood found in Elizabeth Sullivan’s bedroom was from a wound the Navy woman inflicted upon herself during a turbulent time in the couple’s lives. According to NBC 7 police reports, the couple had a history of domestic violence in the marriage and they had argued over custody of their two young daughters and child support.
You can read all the details of Elizabeth Sullivan’s disappearance on our timeline here.
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