San Diego

Trial Date Set for Former U.S. Navy Sailor Accused of Killing Wife

The body of Elizabeth Sullivan was discovered two years after she was first reported missing, floating in the San Diego Bay near the area where she was last seen alive

The trial date has been set for a former U.S. Navy service member whose wife's body was found floating in San Diego Bay on the same day he was packing up his belongings and moving out of California.

Matthew Sullivan will go to trial on October 22 on suspicion that he killed his wife, Elizabeth Sullivan, in 2014. 

The body of Elizabeth Sullivan was discovered two years after she was first reported missing near the area where she was last seen alive. 

Her husband has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge and remains in jail on a $2 million bail.

Delaware Department of Correction
Matthew Sullivan.

During a pre-trial hearing, a former co-worker testified Elizabeth was in a very troubled marriage and eventually had started an extra-marital relationship in September 2014, a month before she disappeared.

The same co-worker testified that Elizabeth had talked with a divorce attorney, transferred some money from a joint bank account to her own account, and taken steps to get a restraining order against her husband to stop him from moving his mother and sister into the couple's home in Liberty Station.

The former U.S. Navy service member was taken into custody on Jan. 31, 2018, in Wyoming, Delaware where he had relocated after Elizabeth Sullivan’s disappearance.

Prosecutors say a knife found in the attic of the home the couple shared in the Liberty Station area after the couple had moved out was used in the crime.

A preliminary hearing will occur to determine if the case of the Navy man accused of killing his wife will go to trial. NBC 7's Mari Payton has more.

Elizabeth Sullivan was first reported missing on Oct. 14, 2014. She was last seen one day earlier near the Liberty Station neighborhood where she lived. A text message sent on Oct. 13, 2014, was the last contact she had with loved ones. Her phone was then turned off. Detectives found Elizabeth Sullivan’s car at her home, but no trace of her.

Several reported sightings of Elizabeth Sullivan were investigated by San Diego police in the days following the Navy wife’s disappearance, but none panned out.

On Oct. 4, 2016, Elizabeth Sullivan’s decomposed body was found floating in San Diego Bay near Farragut Road, about a half-mile from where she had last been seen alive nearly two years to the date earlier.

SDPD detectives determined she had been a victim of a homicide.

Investigators believe Elizabeth’s body had been hidden somewhere before it was disposed of in the bay. The DA said the knife found in the couple’s home contained key evidence linking Matthew Sullivan to the murder.

A Virginia man is begging San Diegans to help find his missing daughter, 31-year-old Elizabeth Sullivan. The Navy wife and mother of two vanished Oct. 13. But as NBC 7’s Danya Bacchus reports, this man says he’s not stopping until he brings her home.

Other testimony heard in the pre-trial hearing discussed two large freezers in the couple's home.

The state of the victim's body and the exact date of her death was the subject of testimony by officials with the San Diego Medical Examiner's Office. 

Doctors testified at a pre-trial hearing that Elizabeth Sullivan's body showed signs of stab wounds and was likely not in the water for two years.

Under cross-examination, Othon Mena, the Assistant Chief Medical Examiner with Ventura County testified the toxicology report returned presumptively positive results for cannabinoids and fentanyl and positive for amphetamines.

Mena previously worked as a deputy medical examiner in San Diego County.

Matthew Sullivan's attorney asked if the toxicology report gave any indication of when the narcotics were ingested prior to Elizabeth's death.

"Unless you know what concentration you're starting with and the weight of the person," he said. "We cannot tell." 

According to police reports obtained by NBC 7, there was a history of domestic violence in the couple’s marriage and they had been arguing over custody of their two young daughters and child support.

U.S. Navy veteran Matthew Sullivan was charged Wednesday with the 2014 murder of his wife, Elizabeth Sullivan. He pleaded not guilty. NBC 7's Rory Devine reports.

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