updated 7/19/2007 1:14:37 PM ET 2007-07-19T17:14:37

A former nurse was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for killing her husband, hacking up his body and stuffing his remains into designer suitcases that later washed ashore along Chesapeake Bay.

Melanie McGuire, 34, was convicted of murder and desecrating human remains in the 2004 death of William McGuire, 39.

His body was found inside the couple’s Kenneth Cole luggage in May 2004 near Norfolk, Va., nearly 300 miles from the couple’s Woodbridge, N.J., apartment.

“The depravity of this murder simply shocks the conscience of this court,” Judge Frederick DeVesa said Thursday in sentencing McGuire.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that McGuire organized her husband’s murder using her expertise as a nurse to drug him, shoot him and cut him up. They said she wanted to begin a new life with her lover — her boss at a fertility clinic.

The defense said McGuire had been abused by her husband and wanted to leave him. Her lawyers argued that the petite nurse was physically incapable of killing her 6-foot-3, 210-pound husband and that it would have been impossible to commit such a bloody crime without leaving behind physical evidence.

Stephen Turano said his client planned to appeal. “She maintains her innocence,” he said.

McGuire, who cried Thursday as he sentence was read, had said in a television interview before the jury returned its verdict that she did not kill her husband.

“No matter how I felt about my husband, I could not have done this to my sons,” she said.

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