EDISON - A Cliffside Park man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend, who was missing for nearly a year before her body was found by the side of a Long Island highway.

Prosecutors say 36-year-old Hugues Francois fatally beat 28-year-old Thalia Stathis in their Cliffside Park apartment in 2007 after learning that she was about to break up with him.

Francois was arrested shortly after her disappearance. He was convicted by a Bergen County jury earlier this year.

At an emotional sentencing hearing Tuesday in State Superior Court in Hackensack, the victim's mother, Joanne Stathis, described Francois as "a vicious, cruel creature" who took advantage of her daughter's kindness and generosity.

AP wire services contributed to this report.