Man is sentenced to life without parole

Date: 2005-08-27

Man is sentenced to life without parole

Aug 27, 2005
Geoffrey Fattah
Deseret News

Family members said LaRae Marara Sullivan always saw the good in everyone. So much so that she might have never imagined she -- and her 4-year-old adopted daughter -- would be killed by her husband, Brian Christopher Sullivan.

Calling the crime a cold and brutal execution of two defenseless people, a judge Friday sent Sullivan to prison for the remainder of his life, without parole.

Sullivan pleaded guilty in July to two counts of capital aggravated murder in exchange for prosecutors' agreeing not to seek the death penalty.

Police say Sullivan brutally stabbed his wife and adopted daughter in their Salt Lake County home in February 2003. Autopsy results showed that Sullivan stabbed his wife at least eight times in the chest, at times breaking ribs, as she struggled to defend herself against the attack. Evidence then appears to show that Sullivan hunted down 4-year-old Kehaulani and stabbed her at least 21 times. He then took their naked bodies and arranged them on a bed. It wasn't until several days later that Sullivan confided to his sister what he had done.

Sullivan has maintained that he believed he was being tested by God, like Abraham in the Bible. Mental evaluations showed Sullivan suffers from severe bipolar disorder as well as a form of schizophrenia.

Sullivan's sister testified at trial that her brother exhibited strange paranoid behavior, such as dismantling a door knob and cutting wires to his furnace, thinking someone was spying on him.

LaRae Sullivan's father, Sionie Niu, said his family was also concerned that Sullivan's behavior was getting worse. Up until just weeks before the murders, Niu said his daughter insisted that her husband was doing well. "She told me not to worry," he said during Friday's sentencing hearing.

"How ironic that he hurt the one person who loved him unconditionally," said LaRae's older brother David Niu.

In an emotional hearing, family members spoke of how positive and caring the nurse who worked at South Davis Hospital was and how they cherished 4-year-old Kehaulani Niu Sullivan.

As relatives wiped away tears, Sionie Nui said his faith has given him and his family strength enough to forgive Sullivan, adding he felt his daughter and granddaughter have forgiven as well.

"They have forgiven you and we as a family have forgiven you," Sionie Niu said.

Sullivan fought back sobs as he read his apology in court. "My heart greatly sorrows over what I have done," he said, adding he was "consumed with remorse."

"There was not a finer woman or child who ever graced this Earth," Sullivan said.

He then offered his apology to his former wife's family. "It is my only hope that in facing justice, it will bring some small hope of relief."

Sionie Niu said Sullivan's apology did mean a lot to his family and does bring some closure for them.

Third District Judge Dennis Frederick said Sullivan executed his wife and daughter under the deluded belief that he was ordered by God -- acting out of a religious zealotry the judge said had run amok.

Frederick also granted a request by prosecutors for an order prohibiting Sullivan from profiting from the sale of any account of the murders or contracting with a company for a re-enactment of the acts.



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