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Nebraska man accused of helping Florida girlfriend kill self said he thought she had terminal cancer

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Investigators say a Nebraska man facing an assisted suicide charge in his Florida girlfriend's death believed she had stage-four cancer, but an autopsy didn't find any tumors.

Cass County sheriff's deputies charged Matthew J. Stubbendieck last week in the death of 38-year-old Alicia Wilemon-Sullivan, of Orange City, Florida.

Authorities said Stubbendieck, 41, reported that Wilemon-Sullivan had killed herself and led them to her body on Aug. 5 in a wooded area near his hometown of Weeping Water, which is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Omaha. They said the couple arranged for Wilemon-Sullivan to fly to Nebraska from her home near Orlando to kill herself on Aug. 1.

Stubbendieck believed his girlfriend had cancer in the lymph nodes of her neck, armpit and stomach, but a pathologist who performed an autopsy didn't report any cancerous masses or tumors, according to court records. Authorities say the cause of death was inconclusive, but an autopsy found no sign of blunt force trauma and concluded that cuts on her forearms and wrists appeared to be self-inflicted. Wilemon-Sullivan also had alcohol, painkillers and cold medicine in her system, it found.

Stubbendieck told authorities that he had never accompanied his girlfriend of 1 � years to medical appointments, according to the records. He said he didn't think she had a regular doctor, but that she had been diagnosed and treated in emergency rooms.

The investigation "revealed Stubbendieck and Alicia Wilemon-Sullivan had been arranging for Alicia to come to Nebraska to die" and they were "talking about her death over text messages" for several weeks, authorities said in court records.

Wilemon-Sullivan left her children with a friend and said she was going on vacation to Key West, the records said. Authorities say she bought a one-way American Airlines ticket to Nebraska.

An attorney for Stubbendieck wasn't immediately available. Cass County Attorney Nathan Cox said he could not elaborate on any of the details listed in court records.

Authorities began investigating after one of Wilemon-Sullivan's children contacted Florida authorities on Aug. 5, according to a missing-person's report filed with the Volusia County, Florida, sheriff's office. The 15-year-old said his older brother in Mississippi had received a call from Stubbendieck notifying him that their mother had died after cutting her wrists.

Investigators said Stubbendieck accompanied Wilemon-Sullivan to Schramm State Park by the Platte River, but returned to Weeping Water after they saw a park worker. They walked into the woods to an area called Acapulco Lake around 2 p.m. on Aug. 1, and he remained with her for several hours as she tried to kill herself, according to the records.

Authorities said Stubbendieck tried to suffocate her twice while she was sleeping, but stopped because she appeared to be suffering. She was still able to whisper when he left her around 9:30 p.m.

Stubbendieck returned the next afternoon and found Wilemon-Sullivan dead, but he didn't call the sheriff's office until three days later, according to court records. Stubbendieck told authorities he initially promised not to tell anyone about her death until five or six months later but changed his mind because the secret was "destroying his family," court records show.

Stubbendieck has a history of minor drug and alcohol-related offenses in Nebraska but no violent crimes, according to online court records.

Assisting suicide is a felony in Nebraska punishable by as much as two years in prison, a year of post-release supervision and a $10,000 fine, although a judge could impose a lesser sentence.

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