PLATTSMOUTH, Neb. — Matthew Stubbendieck wasn’t shy about telling others that his Florida girlfriend was coming to Nebraska to kill herself.
During the final day of testimony in his trial on an assisted suicide charge, another girlfriend and two co-workers testified that Stubbendieck told them that Alicia Wilemon-Sullivan had terminal cancer and wanted to kill herself after she arrived.
The two co-workers, William McFadden and Matthew Stephens, said Thursday that his “game plan” was to obtain liquid morphine to “put her to sleep” and end her suffering.
Despite warnings from colleagues on a tree-trimming crew he had just joined that his plan was “legally wrong” and could land him in prison, Stubbendieck was undeterred.
“He said he loved her and he was going to do it for her,” Stephens said.
Stubbendieck, who turns 42 on Friday, is charged with assisted suicide, a rarely prosecuted felony that carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Final arguments are scheduled Friday morning at the Cass County Courthouse. A jury of eight women and four men is hearing the case.
Stubbendieck’s defense lawyers maintain that he was manipulated into aiding Wilemon-Sullivan, 38, who, an autopsy later showed, had no signs of cancer. They maintain that she was addicted to narcotics and was suspected of embezzling money from her Florida employer.
Stubbendeick led authorities to her body on Aug. 5, four days after he and Wilemon-Sullivan had gone to an old quarry near his hometown of Weeping Water in search of a secluded site where she could end her life.
He told Cass County investigators that they had made love on a blanket there and after he had walked away briefly to urinate, he discovered that she had slashed her wrists with a steak knife. He never did obtain any morphine, investigators said, but may have told Wilemon-Sullivan that he would do that to “calm her.”
At the quarry, Stubbendieck said, he lay with Wilemon-Sullivan for 7½ hours as she continued to slash her wrists. He said he had promised her she would die in his arms, but after five hours he attempted twice to smother her to end her suffering, only to quickly stop when she stirred or gave him a scared look.
Eventually, as the sun was setting, he said, Wilemon-Sullivan, bleeding and whispering, told him to go. The next afternoon, Stubbendieck returned to find her dead.
On Thursday, an old childhood friend, Christine Timbs, testified that she and Stubbendieck had rekindled a romance after he returned to Weeping Water just prior to the death.
She testified that Stubbendieck wanted to move in with her but had “something huge to do first” before that could happen.
“Tomorrow, I’ll be all yours,” he texted her at one point.
Much of Thursday’s testimony centered on the hundreds of text messages exchanged between Wilemon-Sullivan, of Orange City, Florida, and Stubbendieck, the son of a prominent Weeping Water family who had moved back from Florida in June 2017 after living there for several years.
Cass County Public Defender Julie Bear, Stubbendieck’s defense attorney, focused on more than a dozen texts sent by Wilemon-Sullivan two days before she came to Nebraska, berating her boyfriend for apparently being unwilling to help her die.
“I’ll do what I need to do and do it alone,” she texted him. “I’m not loved the same and it’s OK,” she said in another. “All I want to do is fall asleep forever in your arms,” read another text.
Cass County Investigator Doug Durkan said Stubbendieck, who is free on bail, was fully cooperative with authorities, but once quickly changed a statement that the suicide was “our plan” to it was “her plan.”
Durkan said that when Stubbendieck was told that no cancer was found in Wilemon-Sullivan’s body, he replied, “Please don’t tell me this was all bull----. Oh God. I’m going to puke.”
Stubbendieck, a lean, balding man, did not testify in his own defense. He stared quietly ahead during most of Thursday’s testimony but did shake his head slightly as one of the co-workers testified and dabbed tears as the pleading text messages were read in court.
A woman who said she was a sister of Wilemon-Sullivan also wiped away tears in the wood-paneled courtroom as the texts were read detailing her sister’s desire to die.
One of the texts read: “I’m done with all the pain.”