A Virginia Beach man will spend 40 years behind bars for decapitating his girlfriend and hiding her body in the Great Dismal Swamp.
On May 27 a jury found 39-year-old massage therapist Justin Keith Cornell guilty of murdering his coworker and girlfriend, Brianna Armstrong.
The verdict came after a five-day trial. The jury recommended a 40-year sentence and a $100,000 fine, which Virginia Beach Circuit Court Judge William R. O’Brien imposed on Wednesday, according to a news release from the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.
Armstrong was last seen on May 7, 2015 by her husband as she was leaving for Cornell’s Newtown Road apartment. She didn’t return home the next morning, and her husband contacted the police.
Police found Armstrong’s car a week later at a shopping center near Cornell’s apartment. When they went to question him, all of the windows and doors to the apartment were open, the release states.
At the apartment police found some of Armstrong’s clothing, along with knives, swords, a large stain in the hallway and receipts for cleaning supplies and carpet cleaner.
Cornell told police he hadn’t seen Armstrong recently, but later admitted to seeing her on May 7.
A man riding his bike near the Great Dismal Swamp found Armstrong’s body on May 31, 2015. She’d been decapitated, and her body was severed at the joints.
Near her body police found trash, a receipt with Cornell’s name on it, underwear with his DNA on them and bits of a Christmas tree that belonged to him, the release states.
The investigation revealed Armstrong’s blood on the carpet of Cornell’s apartment, and his cell phone showed that seven hours before her body was discovered Cornell used Google Maps to search for the location where her body was found.