Trial underway in assisted suicide case

(WOWT) -- A trial is underway in Cass County for the man accused of assisting the suicide of a former girlfriend.

Matthew Stubbendieck was arrested in 2017 for allegedly assisting in the suicide of Alicia Wilemon-Sullivan. During trial Wednesday, prosecutors detailed a series of events that led to Alicia's death. In their arguments, prosecutors told jury members they would find numerous instances where Stubbendieck aided and abetted her. The defense argued evidence shows Alicia took her own life. They say she was not encouraged by Stubbendieck.

Alicia's body was found in a wooded area near Weeping Water in early August. Authorities say Stubbendieck, 41, called the Cass County Sheriff's Office on August 5th and said his girlfriend, Alicia Wilemon-Sullivan, 38, had come up from Florida to see him one last time before she ended her life. Stubbendieck told authorities her body was in Weeping Water, that she had died, "a couple of days ago," and that he could lead a deputy to her body.

The body was located in a wooded area near Weeping Water.

Stubbendieck told deputies that Alicia suffered from Stage 4 cancer. He said Alicia arrived from Florida on July 31 and said she wanted to end her life on August 1st. He said she told him she, "wanted to die in his arms."

Stubbendieck told authorities that Alicia Wilemon-Sullivan's cancer was in her lymph nodes, neck, armpits and stomach. Documents state that according to the final autopsy, there were no signs of tumors or masses. Pathologist determined the death to be self inflicted. They also found morphine in her system. Stubbendieck told investigators that he didn’t know she was going to use a knife to kill her but pills instead.

After the two reportedly arrived in the area where the body was later found, Stubbendieck said 20 minutes passed before she cut her wrists with a knife. He said he remained with her for several hours during which time she cut her wrists several more times.

Prosecutors said Stubbendieck admitted he tried to suffocate Alicia twice as she bled but couldn't go through with it. He told investigators that he eventually left while she was still alive. He returned a few days later and found her dead.

The defense said Stubbendieck loved Alicia. The couple met in Florida. They had a relationship for two years during which, the defense said, Stubbendieck repeatedly asked Alicia to be his wife. The couple never married and eventually, Stubbendieck moved back to Nebraska. The defense said Alicia repeatedly told Stubbendieck she was sick with cancer. Stubbendieck said he witnessed a change in her appearance. His parents noticed the change in appearance, too. They said Alicia sent Stubbendieck pictures of herself in the hospital in 2015.

The defense said Stubbendieck never encouraged Alicia to kill herself. He never provided her meds or a knife. They said evidence shows Stubbendieck was caught in a web of lies. They said he was manipulated by woman her loved and trusted.

The trial will continue Thursday with witness testimony.