Appeal denied, Sullivan jailed

Friday, October 21, 2011

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

A Cornersville man who was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter over 18 months ago has started serving his sentence.

Donnie Lee Sullivan, 54, was sentenced to four years and nine months in March 2010, but remained free on bond, pending the result of his appeal.

On Sept. 29, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler's judgment as to the length of Sullivan's sentence and his refusal to grant probation. Sullivan was arrested and confined in Marshall County Jail. He will have to serve at least 30 percent of his sentence, about 19 months, before being eligible for parole. Prior to his September arrest, Sullivan had spent a total of about three weeks in jail, according to a Sheriff's Department official.

On Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009, Sullivan shot his stepson, Timothy Swaw, 41, during a family altercation at his home on Beechwood Avenue, Cornersville. Swaw was transferred by helicopter ambulance to Vanderbilt, but died less than two hours later.

Sullivan's wife Wanda, and Swaw's wife, daughter and nephew witnessed the single shot from a 16-gauge shotgun that ended their loved one's life.

The house where the shooting took place was sold almost a year ago for about half of its appraised value. The sale of the house and division of the proceeds were part of the Sullivans' divorce settlement.

At his trial, Sullivan was represented by lawyers from the Public Defender's Office, and they argued that he acted in self defense.

"This has nothing to do with self defense, and everything to do with anger," Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard said in his closing argument. "This was a senseless, uncalled-for death."

A jury of nine women and three men deliberated for 70 minutes before returning the guilty verdict.

Another case in which Crigler's judgment was affirmed was that of Timothy Brian Morton, 21, of Coleman Street, who pled guilty to aggravated burglary in March. Morton was sentenced to five years, of which he must serve 30 percent before being eligible for a parole hearing.

Morton's appeal claimed that the length of his sentence was excessive, but the Appeals Court judges found that Crigler had correctly applied the sentencing guidelines.

"The Defendant's long history of criminal conduct and failure to comply with measures less restrictive than confinement support the trial court's denial of alternative sentencing," wrote Presiding Judge Joseph M. Tipton in giving the court's opinion.

According to his case file, Morton broke into a woman's apartment in August 2010 by picking the lock. Morton admitted to Crystal Gray of the Board of Probation and Parole that he was high on pills and alcohol at the time. The victim and her son found Morton inside the residence when they got home. Morton was not charged with stealing anything.