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Man sentenced to 56 years to life in prison in killing of girlfriend

A man convicted of killing his girlfriend in her Reseda apartment was sentenced last week to 56 years to life in prison, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said.

James Howard Jr., 23, was convicted of the murder of Sharilit Matthews in September after a nearly four-week trial. Matthews was killed Feb. 2, 2012. Family and friends reported Matthews missing after they hadn't heard from her for almost a week, and she was found eight days later by police conducting a welfare check.

Howard's conviction carried special allegations that he used a knife -- a deadly and dangerous weapon -- in the murder and that he had received a strike conviction in 2009 for robbery.

Howard moved in with Matthews, 41, in August 2011 after serving time in prison for the robbery conviction. At the trial, neighbors testified they would hear the couple arguing and yelling through the walls in Matthews' apartment. Her friends said they saw bruises on her body on various occasions, according to the district attorney's office.

L.A. County Superior Court Judge James Brandolino denied a motion for a new trial, according to the D.A.'s office.

-- James Barragan

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