A South Philadelphia man was sentenced to 30 years without parole yesterday for stabbing his Burlington County girlfriend to death and burning down her Evesham Township townhouse in an attempt to cover up the killing.

Joseph Morice, 30, reluctantly appeared before a packed courtroom in Burlington County Superior Court. A day before, he had asked for permission to skip the sentencing hearing, said Ray Milavsky, the first assistant prosecutor for Burlington County.

"He didn't want to be there so he wouldn't have to listen to the statements made by the victim's friends and family," Milavsky said.

Lauren Nobel, 29, was found dead of multiple stab wounds on April 19, 2005, as firefighters put out a blaze at her home.

Morice had been found earlier that night in the Delaware River standing on top of Nobel's submerged car.

He told police he had been carjacked on Route 70 and bludgeoned. When he regained consciousness, he said, he was in the river.

In August, Morice changed his story and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated arson.

In court yesterday, Nobel's parents spoke of the horrific impact the killing had on their lives. Milavsky said two of her friends also spoke at length.

"While there can never be closure for the family," Milavsky said, "at least there is an end to the court proceedings."