New expert is likely in W.V. murder case

Date: 2003-07-06

New expert is likely in W.V. murder case

Jul 6, 2003
Linda Thomson
Deseret New

One of two experts tapped to determine whether Brian Christopher Sullivan is competent to stand trial in the slayings of his wife and daughter is too busy to do the evaluation, so another evaluator will need to be chosen.

Third District Judge Ann Boyden set Aug. 18 for a new scheduling conference for Sullivan.

In a somewhat rare move, the prosecutors in the case have asked for the evaluation. Traditionally, defense attorneys request such evaluations.

Prosecutor Paul Parker said later that, by law, the judge could appoint people to evaluate Sullivan, but it has been common practice in this area for prosecutors and defense attorneys to agree on who will evaluate the defendant.

The expert chosen by the prosecutors said "he was too busy and couldn't be involved in a case like this," Parker said later.

Parker said the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office has sent orders identifying a new expert to the defense team for its review. If the defense agrees with the choice, Boyden has the option of signing an order for the evaluation. If the defense team doesn't like the new expert, prosecutors plan to return to the judge and say, "This is who we want," Parker said.

Parker noted that a competency order stops all proceedings until a determination is made as to whether someone is competent to stand trial.

An individual doesn't have to be in top mental health to be competent. Instead, the person simply must be able to understand the charges against him and how the legal system works, and be able to help his attorney in his own defense.

Sullivan, 38, is charged with capital murder and, if convicted, could face the death penalty. The charges stem from the deaths of his wife, LaRae Marara Sullivan, and their 4-year-old daughter, Kehaulani Nui Sullivan. A state deputy medical examiner determined both died from multiple stab wounds, had been dead one or two days and that both bodies had been moved, according to charging documents.

The bodies, which apparently had been cleaned and were covered with blankets, were discovered by police in the family's West Valley home Feb. 21, 2003, after a number of people had tried without success to call or reach the mother.

E-MAIL: lindat@desnews.com

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