Father pleads guilty to killing his wife, daughter

Date: 2005-07-02

Father pleads guilty to killing his wife, daughter

Jul 2, 2005
Geoffrey Fattah
 Deseret News

Brian Christopher Sullivan, saying he wanted to take responsibility for the fatal stabbing of his wife and 4-year-old daughter that he has claimed was a test from God, could spend the rest of his life in prison for the crime.

As family members sat in a 3rd District courtroom, Sullivan pleaded guilty to two counts of capital aggravated murder as part of a plea bargain. In exchange, prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty. That could mean Sullivan, 40, will likely get a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Judge Dennis Frederick asked a solemn Sullivan, who stood at a podium in chains, if he understood that he was waiving his right to have his case heard by a jury. Under Utah law, sentencing for capital murder is to be done in the presence of a jury, unless waived by the defendant. Sullivan waived that right as well.

"I do, and I take responsibility," Sullivan said in response to being asked if he understood the plea agreement.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 26.

Sullivan is accused of stabbing LaRae Marara Sullivan and their 4- year-old adopted daughter, Kehaulani Niu Sullivan.

Police found the two victims unclothed and in a bed in the couple's Salt Lake County home on Feb. 21, 2003. During a preliminary hearing, a medical expert estimated the mother and daughter had been dead for one or two days.

Also during the preliminary hearing last January, Sullivan's sister, Deborah Hebert, testified that her brother came to her and wanted to talk about spiritual matters when he confessed to stabbing the pair. Hebert said over the past years she noticed her brother exhibit signs of paranoia, thinking that someone was out to get him and at one point, took apart a door knob and cut wires to his furnace, thinking they had listening devices.

Sullivan then allegedly told his sister that he was like Abraham, who was commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac, with a knife, according to the Bible.

In court, Sullivan acknowledged that he was on two medications: a mood stabilizer to control bipolar depression and an anti- psychotic. Sullivan said the two medications did not hinder his thinking in pleading guilty and in fact helped clear his mind. "I plead guilty," he said.

Outside court, Marlene Smith, who called herself a longtime friend of Sullivan's, said when she last spoke to him, Sullivan said he wanted to plead guilty in an effort to bring some form of peace to LaRae Marara Sullivan's family.

"It's very tragic and it's had a tremendous ripple effect," Smith said. "It's been very hard because he knows how much he's hurt people."

Sionie Niu, Larae's father, said he felt the plea deal was fair but wanted to reserve expressing his feelings until Sullivan is sentenced. When asked about how his family has coped over the last two years, he said, "It hasn't been easy."

Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney Robert Stott said after the hearing that his office believed that they could have proved the Sullivan was competent to stand trial, despite signs of mental illness. Stott also said the couple had adopted their daughter and that Kehaulani's biological mother also attended Friday's hearing.

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com

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