By Rebecca Ruiz, NBC News
Paul Stephen Bricker, a 27-year-old sailor, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday for fatally stabbing Navy Chief Gerard Curran on July 30, 2009, in Virginia Beach, Va.
The stabbing was part of a plan developed by Curran to die by suicide, but make it appear as though he had been murdered to ensure his family would receive government benefits, according to a statement released by Harvey L. Bryant, the Commonwealth Attorney for the City of Virginia Beach.
Bricker worked under Curran and “looked up to the chief,” according to court documents. Bricker told police that Curran wanted his help to make the death look like a robbery. In April 2009, Curran had stabbed himself in the chest and claimed that an intruder had attacked him, but an investigation found the wound was self-inflicted.
In July 2009, the two agreed to meet in a local park, where Curran choked himself with a rubber physical therapy band until passing out. After a few minutes, Bricker stabbed Curran once in the chest and then left with the knife and rubber band.
“The defendant said that he had stabbed Mr. Curran because Mr. Curran had asked him to help him,” the court document said. “The investigation revealed no benefit, pecuniary or otherwise, to the defendant for his role in the victim’s death.”
Curran was eventually found in the park after his estranged wife, Dawn Curran, reported him missing. Bricker became a suspect in the case after he told a friend, and the confession was eventually shared by another party with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Macie Pridgen, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, told NBC News.
The case, which did not go to trial, was investigated by both the NCIS as well as local police. Bricker pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter in April; Circuit Court judge Thomas Padrick suspended five years of the term upon sentencing Bricker on Monday.
“You allowed the chief to do what he did, and then you stabbed him. No one has the right to take another’s life,” Padrick told Bricker prior to the sentencing.
Bricker did not seek help for Curran or report his suicidal thoughts, according to Bryant’s statement.
In a statement read in court on Monday, Dawn Curran said Bricker should have told someone that her husband had planned to die.
“That’s what a real friend would do,” the Virginian-Pilot reported her as saying. “I find assisted suicide the equivalent to murder.”
Bricker apologized prior to the sentencing. “I am deeply sorry,” he said. “And I wish I could take it all back.”
Rebecca Ruiz is a reporter at NBC News.