O.C. man who killed his wife and made it look like an accident gets 15 years to life

Santa Ana, California December 18, 2023-Fertility doctor and murder defendant Eric Sills listens to a prosecutor during closing arguments in the murder trail of his wife at the Santa Ana Courthouse Monday. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Eric Sills, right, listens during closing arguments at his murder trial in Santa Ana before he was found guilty in December. He has been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

A San Clemente fertility doctor who was convicted of fatally strangling his wife and making her death look like an accident has been sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

An Orange County jury convicted Eric Scott Sills, 58, of the murder of his wife, Susann, in December. The jury deliberated for a day before reaching its verdict of second-degree murder. Sentence was imposed last week. Prior to Susann Sills' death, the couple ran a fertility clinic in Carlsbad and lived with their 12-year-old twins in a $1-million San Clemente home.

Sills called 911 in November 2016 to report that his wife had apparently fallen down the stairs during the night. He told dispatchers he found her body upon waking up and could not detect a pulse.

Investigators determined the cause of death to be strangulation, however, and found blood in the couple's daughter’s bedroom, where Susann was spending the night due to a migraine. Sill’s defense team argued that the strangulation marks were caused by the family dog tugging at a scarf around Susann’s neck after she fell.

Read more: A fertility doctor said his wife fell down the stairs. An O.C. jury convicted him of murder

The defense also argued that the blood in the bedroom could have resulted from an exposed nail on the nightstand.

Sill’s attorney Jack Earley told jurors that Susann had been suffering from a migraine and had painkillers in her system, which could have left her disoriented.

Prosecutors say Sills strangled his wife during an argument and subsequently scrambled to stage her death as an accidental fall down the stairs.

“Mr. Sills not only killed his wife but he went one step further and tried to cover up his horrific crime,” said Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer. “His actions have irreparably torn apart his family as his children have to grapple with the immeasurable pain of losing their mother at the hands of their father.”

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Walker, who prosecuted the case, emphasized the position of Susann’s body during the trial. She was found face up at the bottom of the staircase with her right foot draped on a lower stair, despite emergency dispatcher instructions to Sills to lay her flat to attempt CPR.

“This man killed his wife and hid it, and he hid it pretty well, because it took a while to bring him to justice,” Walker told jurors during the trial.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.