A MILLIONAIRE WANTED FOR THE MURDER OF HIS WIFE, EVADES AUTHORITIES FOR NEARLY TWO DECADES
Correspondent Susan Spencer Speaks to the Woman Who Broke the Case in an Exclusive Interview on "48 Hours Mystery," Saturday, Oct. 7
For years after his wife's murder in 1987, millionaire Jim Sullivan lived the good life. He was a social climber, romanced gorgeous women worldwide, and lived a life of luxury. Though authorities suspected Sullivan was involved in his wife's death, it seemed he was untouchable and that no one would be held accountable for the point-blank shooting of Lita Sullivan. That is, until 11 years later, in 1998, when a young woman came forward with shocking new information that would link Jim Sullivan to the crime. Susan Spencer reports this story on 48 HOURS MYSTERY: "Millionaire Manhunt," Saturday, Oct. 7 on the CBS Television Network.
In 1987, Jim Sullivan faced the possibility of losing his estimated $8 million fortune in a bitter divorce battle with his wife. After nine years of marriage, Lita Sullivan had filed for divorce and left their oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. for an Atlanta townhouse. She petitioned the court to challenge an agreement she and Jim Sullivan had about dividing assets. If Lita Sullivan won, she could walk away with everything.
On the morning of Jan.16, 1987, the very day an Atlanta judge was to issue a ruling, Lita Sullivan answered the doorbell of her upscale home. Seconds later she was gunned down by a man carrying a box of long-stemmed pink roses -- shot in the head with a 9mm handgun, and pronounced dead upon arrival at Piedmont Hospital. She was 35 years old.
Lita Sullivan's parents believed their son-in-law was responsible for the shooting. The police had their suspicions as well, despite Jim Sullivan's solid alibi -- he was 600 miles away in Palm Beach when Lita Sullivan was killed. Investigators surmised that Jim Sullivan could have hired a hit man. But with very few clues to support that theory, he was not arrested.
Within months of Lita Sullivan's death, Jim Sullivan married a Palm Beach socialite. Although the marriage did not last long, his carefree life continued -- living and traveling all over the globe, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Thailand -- seemingly unaffected by Lita Sullivan's death.
Then, in 1998 a Texas woman named Belinda Trahan came forward with astonishing information that broke the case wide open -- information she'd been keeping to herself for years. Belinda revealed that her boyfriend had been hired by a wealthy man in Palm Beach, who wanted his wife "taken care of." Ultimately, police issued an arrest warrant for Jim Sullivan, but he fled the country. After nearly 20 years, will there finally be justice for Lita Sullivan?
48 HOURS MYSTERY: "Millionaire Manhunt" is produced by Allen Alter, Sara Hulse and Paul LaRosa. The senior producer is Anthony Batson, the executive editor is Al Briganti, and the executive producer is Susan Zirinsky.