- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

LANCASTER, Va. (AP) - A Virginia man has been sentenced to 45 years in prison for killing his girlfriend, whose body was never found.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/1TpJgvK ) that a judge followed the jury’s recommendation Friday, giving 54-year-old James Todd Kessler the maximum sentence for second-degree murder and concealment of a body.

Kessler was convicted in August in the death of 43-year-old Claudine J. Gifford in Lancaster County. The two were last seen together at a Lancaster bar on July 6, 2014.

In court Friday, Kessler continued to maintain his innocence. Defense attorney Craig Cooley had argued at trial that Gifford might still be alive and living under another woman’s identity.

Cooley said Friday that he plans to appeal.

Tony Spencer, the special prosecutor in the case, called the sentence “completely appropriate.”

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com

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