Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lita McClinton Sullivan Murder Case

Blinded by Love

There was no mystery why Sullivan had wanted to marry Lita. She was extremely attractive, elegant, from a prominent family and had a grace and polish far beyond that of the Boston-born businessman who had grown up on the other side of the tracks. The attraction was reciprocal. Lita quickly fell for Sullivan's charm, quick wit and good looks. No doubt the millions he had recently inherited from his uncle aided his suit, making him able to maintain her in the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed.

Lita and Jim Sullivan's Wedding
Lita and Jim Sullivan's Wedding

Sullivan's prior divorce and four children from the failed marriage didn't prevent Lita from marrying him, even though she had only learned about them the night before their wedding. Love seems to blind judgment sometimes. For Lita, the focus stayed firmly on the future and their new life together as Mr. and Mrs. James V. Sullivan. The exuberant couple tied the knot in December 1976 and soon after moved to Macon, Ga., not far from Lita's parents in Atlanta.

Lita and Jim Sullivan
Lita and Jim Sullivan

Lita's parents were less than thrilled with the marriage. They "were worried about how a biracial couple might fare" in the Deep South, and "they also worried because they didn't like Jim Sullivan," Spencer reported. They believed that he was a pathological liar who "often omitted inconvenient information," such as his prior marriage and children, Spencer added.

Despite Lita's parents' concerns, the marriage seemed to be working, at least initially. Yet, the challenges they faced were great. After their move to Macon, the Sullivans quickly discovered that their interracial union was met with disapproval by some in the community. At one point, watermelons were delivered to the Sullivan's doorstep, and garbage dumped on their lawn, Barrie MacQuarrie reported for The Boston Globe. The racial tension proved too much for Lita, and the couple planned their move away from the city.

In 1983, Sullivan sold Crown Beverage, Inc. in Macon Ga., the company he inherited from his uncle, Frank Bienert in 1975. The company sold for $5 million, and Sullivan and Lita moved to Palm Beach, Florida and purchased Casa Eleda, a stunning Italianate villa overlooking the ocean. Together they set about climbing the social ladder in a community they believed to be more accepting of interracial couples.

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