Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lita McClinton Sullivan Murder Case

Working the System

In January 1992, while serving time on the weapons charge, Sullivan was indicted on federal charges for "violating interstate commerce laws by arranging his wife's killing over the phone," Mark Niesse reported for the Associated Press. Sullivan was then extradited from Florida to Atlanta, Ga., and detained in Atlanta's federal prison to await trial. In the interim, he hired a top notch defense team headed by attorney Donald Samuel.

Sullivan faced a possible life sentence in his June 1992 trial, in which the key witness was Suki. In her testimony, she recounted Sullivan's admission to hiring someone to murder Lita. In rebuttal, Sullivan's lawyers attacked Suki's credibility questioning her past relationships and suggesting she was a gold-digger angered by the limited divorce settlement she received from Sullivan.

Prosecutors launched a counterattack, citing Sullivan's phone records at the time of Lita's murder, but they failed to prove who had actually made the calls or what actually had been discussed during the conversations. Consequently, after only three weeks the judge presiding over the trial "reluctantly" dismissed the case due to lack of evidence. Once again, Sullivan had successfully maneuvered his way through the legal system, evading any and all charges in direct relation to Lita's murder.

Even though he had gotten off the hook legally, Palm Beach society proved less forgiving. The community's social elite ostracized Sullivan, resulting in his dismissal from the preservation society. Disgraced, Sullivan sold his home and moved to a modest ranch house in Boynton Beach, Fla.

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