Tuesday March 5th, 2024 1:32AM

Shooter's former girlfriend testifies in slaying trial

By The Associated Press
<p>The former girlfriend of the triggerman in the murder of an Atlanta socialite testified Friday that the shooter told her the killing was a hit for "a white guy who wanted to take out his black wife" because he didn't want to give her any money in a divorce.</p><p>Belinda Trahan told jurors at the murder-for-hire trial of James Sullivan that the shooter, Phillip Harwood, made the comment to her days before Lita Sullivan was shot to death on the doorstep of her town house by a man carrying a dozen long-stemmed pink roses on Jan. 16, 1987.</p><p>James Sullivan, who is white, could be sentenced to death if he is convicted of ordering the murder of his wife, who was black. The trial, which began with jury selection on Jan. 5, wrapped up its first week of testimony Friday.</p><p>Harwood is serving a 20-year sentence for manslaughter after pleading guilty to killing Lita Sullivan, but in recent years he has denied being involved in the killing. He is expected to take the stand next week.</p><p>In front of a packed courtroom, Trahan testified she may have inadvertently given Harwood the idea about using the flowers as bait. She said Harwood complained after his first attempt to do the job that he couldn't scale a wall to get close to the victim.</p><p>She said she told Harwood, "Anyone knows if you want to get a woman to answer the door, all you have to do is take flowers to her." She said she meant it in jest and didn't think Harwood would really kill anyone.</p><p>A few days later, Harwood, of Albemarle, N.C., returned again from Georgia and said that "the job was done," Trahan, of Beaumont, Texas, testified.</p><p>Also Friday, James Sullivan's third wife testified at the millionaire's trial that he told her that his previous wife's slaying was "good for us" because he didn't have to share any of his money with the victim anymore.</p><p>Hyo-Sook Sullivan, who married the defendant eight months after Lita Sullivan was killed, said that James Sullivan called her after the slaying and sounded relieved.</p><p>"I remember he said it's good for us," said the ex-wife, a native of Korea who divorced Sullivan several years later. "He didn't have to divorce her. He didn't have to share with anything. He's complaining he had to share with her."</p><p>Hyo-Sook Sullivan also testified that her ex-husband was upset about the bitter divorce proceedings he was going through with Lita Sullivan in Atlanta.</p><p>Sullivan, 64, a Boston native, was once one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives before he was captured in Thailand in 2002.</p><p>He is accused of paying Harwood $25,000 to kill 35-year-old Lita Sullivan, his second wife.</p><p>A hearing to discuss property distribution in the couple's divorce was scheduled for the same day Lita Sullivan was killed.</p><p>Prosecutors say Sullivan feared losing money and his Palm Beach, Fla., mansion in the divorce.</p><p>A firearms expert, Kelly Fite, testified Friday that while police never found the murder weapon, shell casings found at the scene suggest the fatal shot was fired from a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun. The son of Harwood's former girlfriend, Jimmy Nalley, testified that Harwood carried a Smith & Wesson handgun in his truck.</p><p>Related charges against Sullivan were thrown out at a federal trial in 1992, but the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that double jeopardy does not prevent Sullivan from being tried again in state court.</p><p>Sullivan lived in luxury as he eluded authorities on an intercontinental run _ from Palm Beach to Costa Rica to Panama to Venezuela, and then to Thailand, where he married a local woman, his fourth wife, and bought a condominium in a posh beachside neighborhood. He was extradited to the United States in 2004.</p>
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