Man bound over for trial in slayings
By Linda Thomson,
Brian Christopher Sullivan, whose wife and child were found stabbed to death in their West Valley home, told several people he had killed them because he was following God's orders and was being tested like Abraham in the Old Testament.
Witnesses including Sullivan's sister and a police officer testified at a preliminary hearing Wednesday that Sullivan had told them the world would condemn what he had done, but he would have fulfilled Heavenly Father's will.
Third District Judge Ann Boyden bound Sullivan over for trial.
Sullivan, 40, is charged with two counts of capital murder in connection with the deaths of his wife, LaRae Marara Sullivan, and their 4-year-old daughter, Kehaulani Niu Sullivan. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Police found the two unclothed bodies on Feb. 21, 2003, in a bed in their home and a medical expert estimated the woman and child had been dead for one or two days, according to court documents.
Sullivan, who has been jailed for nearly two years, has undergone mental competency evaluations and both defense attorneys and prosecutors agree he is competent to stand trial.
Deborah Hebert, Sullivan's sister, tearfully testified that her brother had come to her wanting to talk about spiritual matters and said, "I stabbed them."
"He said he was going to turn himself in," Hebert said, sobbing. "I said, 'You're sick, you need help.' "
Hebert also described many instances over the years where Sullivan had appeared paranoid, saying someone was out to get him, including the times when he took apart the door knob at his home to check for listening devices and cut all but one wire to the furnace because someone might be spying on him.
She said he also repeatedly claimed to see signs in nature and in various life events that told him God had chosen him for a special mission. He also maintained he had been visited by Brigham Young.
When Sullivan told her about the stabbings, Hebert said Sullivan compared himself to Abraham in the Bible who was commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac, with a knife. However, God stopped Abraham at the last minute and provided a ram to be sacrificed instead.
"He said, 'I know the world is not going to understand, but I have done Heavenly Father's will,' " Hebert said.
Hebert testified she thought her brother was manic depressive because of his pronounced mood swings.
West Valley police officer Scott Arnold said while he observed Sullivan in a holding cell, Sullivan began talking about Abraham. "He said the Lord had tested him in the same way, but the Lord had not stopped him," Arnold said.
Sullivan also said that what he had done "secured a place for him and his family in heaven," Arnold said.
Maureen Frikke, deputy medical examiner for Utah, said both LaRae and Kehaulani Sullivan died from multiple stab wounds to the chest. Their bodies had been cleaned and some kind of caustic solution had been poured on them and then removed, she said.
The bodies also appeared to have been repositioned after death because the settling of the blood showed pooling in areas that did not reflect how they were found, Frikke said.
She testified the woman and child had many bruises and abrasions on the rest of their bodies, and LaRae Sullivan had what looked like defensive wounds that could come from a struggle.