VAN NUYS ( — A 23-year-old man was sentenced Tuesday for killing his 41-year-old girlfriend last year at her Reseda apartment.

James Howard Jr. was convicted Sept. 25 of first-degree murder for slaying Sharilit Matthews.

Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino denied the defense’s motion for a new trial and Tuesday sentenced Howard to 56 years to life in state prison.

Howard moved in with his girlfriend in August 2011 after he was released from prison in connection with a robbery conviction, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Sharon Ransom.

In February 2012, friends and family contacted police after not hearing from Matthews in more than a week. Officers arrived on Feb. 10 at the woman’s apartment in the 17800 block of Sherman Way and found her dead in her bed.

The victim had suffered a fatal injury to her neck several days earlier. The prosecution maintained that Howard had used a sharp weapon to kill Matthews, although no weapon was found at the scene.

Authorities believe the woman may have been asking Howard to move out.

RELATED STORY: Police Hunt Suspect In Murder Of Reseda Woman, 36

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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