Deal reached in death of woman beaten with slow cooker

Ursula Watson
The Detroit News

Detroit — The lawyer of a woman charged with beating her friend to death with a Crock-Pot entered a plea of guilty to second degree murder, but mentally ill Thursday.

Tewana Sullivan’s attorney, John McWilliams, entered the plea before Judge Michael Hathaway. She faces 23-50 years in prison.

Hathaway accepted the plea, although Sullivan of Detroit was found competent to stand trial. She had been charged with first degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 15.

Sullivan appeared in court wearing light-green prison garb and she admitted to bludgeoning her friend Cheryl Livy, 66, to death in Livy’s Livonia apartment around 10:45 p.m. Oct. 22.

Hathaway asked Sullivan what happened that evening.

“I got into an argument with her. I tried to leave but she wouldn’t let me leave,” Sullivan told Hathaway. “We were hitting each other ... . I was a little bit harder at hitting her than she was at hitting me. I hit her with a Crock-Pot ... in her head and all over ... .”

Sullivan said she wasn’t pleading self-defense, but Livy was armed with a small cooking pot.

When prosecuting attorney Latoya Willis asked Sullivan, “Did you in fact kill her?”

Sullivan continued to look at Hathaway, then answered, “Yes sir.”

The Oakland County medical examiner testified during Sullivan’s preliminary examination in Livonia District Court in February that Livy died of blunt force injuries to her head, face and mid-back. The cord to the Crock-Pot was around Livy’s neck.

Sullivan’s toxicology report indicated she was highly intoxicated on the night of the incident.

McWilliams had said the fight was over a political debate, but a relative of Livy’s disputed that, however offered no other explanation for the fight.

Last month, McWilliams asked Hathaway to approve the request for the examination to see if the 50-year-old Detroit woman was competent to stand trial.

On Thursday, Hathaway said the forensic report found Sullivan was not legally insane. Sullivan’s medical history, Hathaway said, included a number of psychiatric issues and diagnoses over a period of time — some of which may be linked to neurological incidents.

McWilliams said Sullivan had suffered an aneurysm and underwent several brain surgeries.

The judge said, “She is mentally ill.”

The mental illness plea doesn’t affect the prison term itself but provides for prison officials to evaluate her mental health and treat her as needed.

After court adjourned, McWilliams said entering the plea agreement was in the interest of justice and of Sullivan.

“The jury could have easily found her guilty of first degree murder and the reason is no matter what happened between these two women, what happened to the deceased could never be justified,” McWilliams said.

Marvin Jones Jr. who identifies himself as a friend and godfather to Sullivan, said he’s saddened by Livy’s death and Sullivan’s impending prison sentence. Jones lives in the Livonia apartment building where the murder took place.

“I don’t like what happened. I feel this was just something that shouldn’t have taken place, but it did,” said Jones, 69. “We were all friends, so for that to happen — it threw me for a loop.”

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