A judge sentenced Mthulisi Ndlovu, 39, to 20 years Friday for the October, 2011, murder of his live-in girlfriend, Mary Mushapaidzi, 42, in their Bonney Lake, Wash., home. Ndlovu initially told police that Mushapaidzi had gone for a run and never came back, but later admitted to beating her with pruning shears and strangling her during an argument over dirty dishes. When Ndlovu thought Mushapaidzi was dead, he stuffed her into a metal barrel in the garage and lit her body on fire. An autopsy report later determined Mushapaidzi may have been alive during this time. Mushapaidzi’s kids, aged 8 and 2, were present during the killing.
Ndlovu’s lawyer described Mushapaidzi as physically and emotionally abusive, arguing that her behavior led Ndlovu to kill her. A psychiatric nurse hired by the defense testified that Ndlovu suffered from PTSD after witnessing atrocities in Zimbabwe. Prosecutors painted the victim as a hard-working, loving woman who cared for her children and sent money back to family in Zimbabwe every month.
Earlier this month, Ndlovu pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.