A man convicted of killing his wife two years ago and dumping her body along a Jamul hiking trail was sentenced Monday to 16 years to life in prison.
Winnie Whitby was convicted of murdering his wife, Melissa Whitby, a few days after Christmas in 2016.
Melissa Whitby’s family filled the courtroom Monday as her older sister spoke through tears during the sentencing.
“My sister’s vicious murder -- it shredded me. It laid me bare, inside and out. I unwillingly became a survivor of a homicide victim. I will never be the same having experienced the torment of her disappearance and the horrors of learning about her murder,” said Teresa Zenimura, Melissa Whitby’s older sister.
Zenimura said her sister was a kind and loving person, and her death has left a hole in her heart. Melissa Whitby was a nurse for more than 30 years, according to Zenimura.
In November 2018, Winnie Whitby was arrested on a murder warrant in Maryland. Days later, when he first appeared in court, Winnie Whitby pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In court Monday, Winnie Whitby continued to deny that he murdered his wife.
“I did not kill my wife. I never hated her as I was accused of. It’s a scary time in an American courtroom when one’s life can literally be destroyed with hearsay, opinion, and slander,” he said.
In the final days of December 2016, Melissa Whitby was reported missing by her husband, and a week later, her body was discovered by hikers along Skyline Truck Trail -- about a mile and a half away from the couple's home.
Deputies said Winnie Whitby told investigators that his wife left the home the night before he reported her missing.
The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office determined Melissa Whitby died from trauma sustained to her upper body and confirmed the manner of her death was a homicide.
Winnie Whitby was tried and acquitted of a double murder charge in Maryland in the 1990s.