On October 14, 2014, Elizabeth Sullivan, a U.S. Navy wife and mother of 2 from San Diego was reported missing after she vanished without a trace. There were numerous sightings of Elizabeth in the days after her disappearance.
Nearly 2 years later exactly, her body was found floating in the water near Liberty Station. Her husband, Matthew Sullivan, was arrested in connection to the murder with a trial date set for 2019.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Elizabeth met Matthew in Virginia, and they married in 2010. Though they had children ages 2 and 4, it is agreed upon that their marriage began deteriorating around 2012. Matthew began getting sent on long deployments, and their marriage chilled. They slept on separate floors.
On October 14, Elizabeth Sullivan, was officially reported missing to the San Diego Police Department. She had been last seen the day before at her home near Liberty Station. She had sent a text to her friend that day, the last contact any of her loved ones had with her. Her phone was turned off, and her car was found at her home.
5 days later on October 19, 6 years ago today, police confirmed that there had been a sighting of Elizabeth at the soccer fields near her home. It was unclear exactly when she was sighted, but the sighting was confirmed by authorities. The sighting confirmed that Elizabeth was wearing black pants and a grays sweatshirt.
2 days later, the police confirmed another sighting of Elizabeth, this time near the San Diego International Airport.
In November, Elizabeth's husband, U.S. Navy service member Matthew Sullivan, told People magazine he just wanted his young daughters to get o see their mother again. He admitted they had been having marriage trouble and had recently been allowing his wife to have some space. Though he said she had never gone so long without coming home, he did mention she had recently been going out more often... perhaps to make it look possible that she was just out on her own. He mentioned she was doing drugs and occasionally sleeping in the park, on top of cutting herself.
However, he came across as a loving husband, heartbroken that his daughters were going so long without their mommy. He said she always supported him during deployment.
Also in November, Elizabeth's father spoke to NBC 7 and begged for his daughter's safe return, calling her disappearance a "mystery". He traveled from Virginia to San Diego to assist in the search for his beloved daughter. "I feel like she's in trouble," he said.
Despite a variety of people being interested in the case, and her friends and loved ones continuing search and awareness efforts, her case went cold within 10 months without any leads in that time.
There were no breaks in the case until nearly 2 years later on October 6, 2016, but not the break everyone was hoping for. The San Diego Police Department confirmed that a woman's body was found floating in the water. The body was terribly decomposed, found by a citizen walking by. Given the decomposition, it was impossible to determine the identity, pending an autopsy.
The day the body was found was the same day Matthew was moving away from San Diego to Maryland with his new girlfriend. The attorney arguing the case would later say this was no coincidence. They believe her body had been hidden somewhere before it was ultimately disposed of in the bay. The attorney believes that her body was stashed in a freezer.
Elizabeth had stabbed 5 times by an object that broke her ribs. Her jaw and nose were fractured.
The body was not identified for another week or 2. On December 7, 2016, it was confirmed that the body in the bay was that of Elizabeth Sullivan. Of course, investigators said the case was far from over, now that the case wasn't just a mysterious disappearance, but a death. The police requested the public's help in piecing together what happened to Elizabeth.
In February 2017, NBC 7 obtained police reports that showed that Matthew Sullivan, Elizabeth's husband, had called 911 the same day his wife vanished. He claimed his wife was "going to frame him and have him arrested". He also claimed that she made a mess in their home.
Further discovered 911 calls revealed that Elizabeth Sullivan had called 911 before, telling them of a history of domestic violence in her marriage. She said that she and Matthew had been arguing over custody of the kids and child support. She filed a police report, telling officers she was concerned that their fight may escalate. Around that time, Matthew said Elizabeth drained their joint bank account.
A final call was discovered on October 14, 2014, the day Elizabeth disappeared. The call came from the Sullivan home by a friend concerned about Elizabeth's whereabouts. She told police that Elizabeth was "very afraid" of her husband. However, at this point, police said that Matthew was not considered a suspect in Elizabeth's murder.
But their mind was changed on January 31, 2018, when Matthew was arrested for the murder.
His first court appearance was on February 14, 2018. He pleaded not guilty to murder. After a lull in the justice system, Matthew returned exactly a year later on February 14, 2019 for his preliminary hearing. 6 witnesses testified, including a close friend of Elizabeth's who described the Sullivan's marriage as "loveless" and said Elizabeth wasn't happy.
Another witness testified that Elizabeth began having an affair with a new man in September 2014, the month before she disappeared. In fact, Elizabeth had signed up for a dating site, but failed to mention to her boyfriend that she was married with children. But when a friend of his noticed 2 car seats in Elizabeth's car, he believed that she must have left her children home alone. He called Child Protective Services, and in the fall-out, Matthew learned of her affair. And he wasn't happy.
Matthew's trial began on February 21, 2020, with opening statements from Elizabeth's loved ones and family. Matthew sat silently most of the time.
The prosecution described the Sullivan's marriage as a "whirlwind romance" that quickly turned to domestic violence and murder. The attorney, Jill Lindberg, said the affair was his motive, as he had only been made aware about a month before. She claimed Elizabeth was killed in their bedroom, stabbed, and the murder weapon was stashed in the attic above their bedroom. She argued he had a variety of motives, the means, and the opportunity to off his wife. She cited a pool of blood on the floor of their bedroom as evidence.
The defense attorney, Marcus Dubose, painted Matthew as a husband trying to hold onto a wife who was slipping away toward a "self-destructive lifestyle". He argued the blood was from a self-inflicted wound she had done to herself during an argument after the CPS incident when she shattered a mirror and sliced her arm. He argued that she abused drugs, moving from wine to weed to whiskey to cocaine to meth to fentanyl.
At the end of the trial, the jury found Matthew guilty of murdering his wife. He was found not guilty of first-degree murder, but was convicted of the lesser charge of second-degree murder for stabbing his wife to death. He faces 15 years to life in prison for the murder. Though sentencing was set for April, it appears it may not have happened due to the pandemic, because I can't find a sentence.
Against normal circumstances, cheating on your spouse normally makes you the worst person in the relationship. But a quick and easy way to one-up that is to MURDER YOUR WIFE. Yes, she was cheating on him. He deserved to be angry. He deserved to file for divorce, he deserved to fight for custody of his children. But as soon as you STAB YOUR WIFE TO DEATH, your wrongs are the only ones that matter anymore.
Leaving her infidelity out of it, Elizabeth was clearly struggling with her life. She was using drugs, sleeping outside, potentially being abused by her husband, in a loveless marriage, self-harming. She needed help. It is no one else's fault, but oh how I wish someone would have noticed what was going on and helped her. She needed support, but instead, she was met with the rage of her husband who killed her and threw her body away like trash.
I am not sure how long Matthew Sullivan will rot in prison, but I hope it is a long time. Rest in peace, Elizabeth Sullivan.