PLATTSMOUTH — Matthew Stubbendieck will spend the anniversary of his girlfriend’s suicide in jail for the next four years, a judge has decided.
Cass County District Judge Michael A. Smith gave the 42-year-old Weeping Water man four years of probation and 25 days jail, five to be served immediately, and the rest each year from April 1-5 for the assisted suicide of Alicia Wilemon-Sullivan, a Florida woman he had dated.
”I hope you realize the significance of those dates,” Smith told Stubbendieck.
On Aug. 5, 2017, Stubbendieck told Cass County sheriff's investigators that Wilemon-Sullivan had killed herself and he led them to her body in a wooded area near the west end of town.
Wilemon-Sullivan had told him she was dying of cancer, in pain and wanted to die. Stubbendieck borrowed money from his parents and bought her a one-way plane ticket Aug. 1 to Nebraska from her home near Orlando, Florida.
After she met his parents, the couple left to watch the sunset at the Swinging Bridge that summer night last year and went swimming the next day at Acapulco Lake, made love and laid together in the sun.
Stubbendieck told investigators that he turned around and found her bleeding with a knife she had taken from his house. She had cut her own wrist.
For five hours he stayed with her, holding her, comforting her in the woods near Weeping Water. Twice, he tried to cover her nose and mouth to suffocate her, but he couldn’t do it, and ultimately left her there without calling for help.
By morning, Wilemon-Sullivan was dead.
Not long after, Stubbendieck ended up facing a rarely charged felony for assisting in her suicide.
A jury found him guilty in April.
Monday, Stubbendieck stood before the judge and said he acknowledges this is an "extreme tragedy.”
“And I pray every night for her kids, her whole family, my family and friends,” he said before he learned his sentence.
His attorney, Julie Bear, said Stubbendieck loved Wilemon-Sullivan and trusted her when she said she was terminally ill and suffering.
“As it turned out, she was suffering, she was ill, but she didn’t have cancer,” Bear said. “She chose to take her own life under a very tragic set of circumstances.”
You have free articles remaining.
The law doesn’t make exceptions for that.
But she said she believed Stubbendieck was largely manipulated into becoming involved in helping Wilemon-Sullivan. And Bear argued for probation, the presumptive sentence on a Class IV felony, saying Stubbendieck already has served 114 days in jail awaiting trial and that probation programming — on victim empathy and other topics — could be helpful for him.
Cass County Attorney Colin Palm asked for the maximum sentence of two years in prison, plus a year of post-release supervision, arguing that Stubbendieck, an admitted daily marijuana user, appeared to be a terrible candidate for probation.
He said Stubbendieck seemed unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions, telling the pre-sentence interviewer that he was innocent and putting the blame on law enforcement and the court.
“The defendant had so many opportunities to stop the bleeding here. Both literally and figuratively,” Palm said. “And he chose not to.”
Wilemon-Sullivan's parents told the judge in a letter their daughter needed a friend at that time, not an enabler.
“Their lives are forever change by the loss of their daughter,” Palm said.
The judge said if he sentenced Stubbendieck to two years in prison, he only would have to serve about eight months more with credit for good time.
“The court finds that outcome to be unsatisfactory,” Smith said.
Instead, he gave Stubbendieck four years of probation, and ordered him to complete a class on appropriate decision-making and participate in a trauma group and therapy, in addition to the 25 days in jail.
“What’s especially sad to me about this case was that at no point did it occur to anyone to make a phone call about Ms. Sullivan’s mental health,” he said. “There’s a number of things that could’ve been done."
Stubbendieck didn’t say anything as he was ushered out of the courtroom by a deputy.
After talking to Wilemon-Sullivan’s parents, Palm said they’re still learning to live with the loss of their daughter and trying to move on. They knew probation, the presumptive sentence on a Class IV felony, was a possible, even likely, outcome.
He said he thinks everyone would benefit if Stubbendieck were successful.
“It’s certainly out in front of him now. He can take advantage of this or not,” Palm said. “And if he doesn’t, then we’ll be back in here with a motion to revoke probation.”