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Willie G. SULLIVAN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 27, 1991
Date of arrest: January 3, 1992
Date of birth: July 17, 1972
Victim profile: Maurice W. Dodd, 78 (his ex-employer)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Kent County, Delaware, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Delaware on September 24, 1999
 
 
 
 
 
 

Willie G. Sullivan, 28, was put to death for the 1991 murder of Maurice Dodd. He was the tenth person executed since Delaware resumed capital punishment in 1992. Sullivan's lawyers appealed to the Delaware Board of Pardons for his sentence to be commuted to life without parole on the grounds of his mental retardation. Sullivan had an IQ of 70 and suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome caused by his mother's drinking during pregnancy. His appeal was denied.

Sullivan pleaded guilty December 2, 1992 to first degree murder in the stabbing and blunt force death of his ex-employer Maurice W. Dodd, 78. Dodd, owner of Dodd's Nursery & Flower Garden in Frederica, was killed in 1991. On December 30, 1992, Superior Court President Judge Henry DuPont Ridgely sentenced Sullivan to death.

 
 

Willie Sullivan was convicted of the 1991 slaying of an elderly nursery worker.

Sullivan, 27, pled guilty as an accomplice to 1st-degree murder in the 1991 slaying of 78-year-old Maurice Dodd of Frederica, who was stabbed and crushed by a concrete block during a robbery.

Lenny Harrison, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in an earlier, unsuccessful attempt by the two to rob Ms. Dodd, was not implicated in the murder.

According to court records, on Dec. 27, 1991, Sullivan lured Mr. Dodd into a greenhouse and bludgeoned him with a metal ice scoop before stabbing him 10 times.

As the victim lay wounded on the ground, Sullivan threw a concrete block on his chest. Sullivan then took money from Mr. Dodd's pockets, and entered the victim's home, where he found more money.

In addition to stealing $300, Sullivan also found the victim's car key and fled in his vehicle. While state detectives investigated the murder, Sullivan used the car to joy ride with friends and spend money on them, while buying sneakers, a Walkman and some music cassettes for himself.

A few days after the murder, Sullivan abandoned Mr. Dodd's vehicle, which police soon found.

The investigation led detectives to Sullivan, who was arrested Jan. 3, 1992, near the Maryland and Delaware border.

Originally, Sullivan confessed to police that he had carried out the murder alone. Despite later trying to change his story and implicate another person in the murder, Sullivan pleaded guilty on Dec. 2, 1992, and his case never went to trial.

A Kent County jury voted 9-3 in favor of putting Sullivan to death. Superior Court Judge Henry duPont Ridgely followed that recommendation and ordered the convicted murderer to be put to death by lethal injection, calling the murder a "vicious, brutal, and premeditated senseless killing."

  


 

Willie Sullivan, 28, 99-09-24, Delaware

Convicted murderer Willie Sullivan was executed early this morning.

Sullivan was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 12:24 a.m. at Delaware Correctional Center.

Sullivan, 28, was sentenced to death for the 1991 murder of his former employer, 78-year-old Maurice Dodd, a Frederica-area nursery owner.

He had been unsuccessful in numerous appeals on state and federal levels.

On Tuesday, the convicted murderer and his attorneys failed to persuade a 6-member state Board of Pardons to commute his sentence to life imprisonment.

Sullivan's attorneys did not ask Gov. Thomas R. Carper to consider the case because of the governor's record of not interfering with the capital punishment process.

Before Sullivan, Delaware had executed 9 since 1992 - 8 by chemical injection and 1, Billy Bailey in January 1996, by hanging.

David J. Lawrie, who was put to death on April 23, was the last to be executed by the state.

According to court records, on Dec. 27, 1991, Sullivan lured Mr. Dodd into a greenhouse and bludgeoned him with a metal ice scoop before stabbing him 10 times. As the victim lay wounded on the ground, Sullivan threw a concrete block on his chest.

Sullivan then took money from Mr. Dodd's pockets, and entered the victim's home, where he found more money. In addition to stealing $300, Sullivan also found the victim's car key and fled in his vehicle.

While state detectives investigated the murder, Sullivan used the car to joy ride with friends and spend money on them, while buying sneakers, a Walkman and some music cassettes for himself.

A few days after the murder, Sullivan abandoned Mr. Dodd's vehicle, which police soon found. The investigation led detectives to Sullivan, who was arrested Jan. 3, 1992, near the Maryland and Delaware border.

Originally, Sullivan confessed to police that he had carried out the murder alone. Despite later trying to change his story and implicate another person in the murder, Sullivan pleaded guilty on Dec. 2, 1992, and his case never went to trial.

A Kent County jury voted 9-3 in favor of putting Sullivan to death. Superior Court Judge Henry duPont Ridgely followed that recommendation and ordered the convicted murderer to be put to death by lethal injection, calling the murder a "vicious, brutal, and premeditated senseless killing."

Through almost 7 years of appeals, Sullivan's attorneys have argued that the condemned murderer had inefficient legal counsel that failed to bring out important aspects of the client's background prior to his guilty plea and during the penalty phase.

Specifically, attorneys Joseph A. Gabay and Anthony J. Figliola argued that Sullivan's problems began before birth as a fetal alcohol syndrome baby, resulting in a low IQ, which the lawyers said qualified him to be considered mentally retarded. The attorneys noted that those mitigating factors were never brought out during Sullivan's penalty hearing.

Nevertheless, those arguments failed to carry enough weight with appeal judges in the state Superior Court or Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.

"If anyone deserves a commutation, then it's Willie," said Mr. Figliola.

Even the emotional testimony of Sullivan's mother, Barbara A. Sullivan - who confirmed that she drank alcohol constantly while pregnant, continued her alcoholism through his childhood and mentally abused him as a child - did not sway the state Board of Pardons into showing mercy.

Mr. Gabay also continued to maintain that Sullivan did not deserve his lethal injection fate. "I'm disappointed professionally, but most of all, I am disappointed for Willie," he said.

Sullivan becomes the 2nd condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in Delaware, and the 10th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1992.

(sources: Delaware State News & Rick Halperin)

 

 

 
 
 
 
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