Minneapolis lawyer shot dead by boyfriend in Shoreview home

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG and JOY POWELL , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: June 5, 2013 - 6:08 AM

Nancy Sullivan was shot to death as she was moving out of the Shoreview home they shared.

Nancy A. Sullivan was moving out of her Shoreview home Tuesday morning when she was apparently killed by her live-in boyfriend, a scenario that has played out at an alarming rate in the Twin Cities this year.

Sullivan, 57, and her boyfriend of several years, Johnny L. Simpson, 65, were both dead at the scene from gunshot wounds when sheriff’s deputies arrived at their home in the 5900 block of Grotto Street at 9:58 a.m. Two others were wounded. Regions Hospital confirmed the wounded as Katie Fay, listed in critical condition, and Tony Brown. No information about Brown’s condition was available.

Sullivan, a lawyer and active community volunteer, is the seventh metro-area woman killed this year allegedly at the hands of a boyfriend or husband.

“To have so many this early in the year is very concerning,” said Carol Arthur, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Project. “It seems like in this scenario, as far as we know, she had taken some steps to be safe.”

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office has revealed few details about what happened inside the home, citing the continuing investigation, other than to confirm that the deceased woman was moving out, the deceased man is the only suspected shooter and that the two were in a relationship.

Neighbors identified the couple and described both as friendly and social. Court records showed no order for protection filed for either party nor any domestic violence convictions for Simpson.

But court records from Simpson’s 2002 divorce from his ex-wife accuse him of domestic abuse and bullying behavior.

“John has a pattern of escalating anger which culminates in very abusive verbal behavior, and sometimes escalates to physical,” Simpson’s ex-wife wrote in a 2005 affidavit concerning custody of their son. “John has caused me stitches in my cheek and has also choked me.”

Neighbors said they couldn’t recall any trouble between Sullivan and Simpson or police calls to the home until Tuesday. Neighbor Roger Menk said another neighbor was the first to rush into the house as movers fled in a panic.

A moving truck and boxes sat outside the house as the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigated the scene. Menk said a moving truck left the home Monday, and that he briefly saw Simpson in passing Monday.

“He seemed in OK spirits,”said Menk. “If you asked people who knew him, they’d say he was a really good guy. To me, he’s a quiet, soft-spoken guy.”

Authorities are not calling the deaths a murder-suicide, but sheriff’s spokesman Randy Gustafson said they were not looking for any suspects. The suspected weapon, a handgun, was recovered at the scene, Gustafson said.

Menk said the wounded woman was Sullivan’s daughter and the wounded man was the daughter’s boyfriend.

Kfir Batiller, 19, lives next door to Sullivan and Simpson and said they’d invite him and his siblings to swim in their pool or work out at the community center, and that they regularly barbecued with friends.

“They seemed like normal people,” Batiller said.

He said he saw Simpson doing yard work on Sunday and “he was laughing and looked happy to me.”

Reams of paperwork documenting a bitter divorce and child custody dispute between Simpson and his ex-wife illustrate a different picture of Simpson, who worked as a chef.

Prior allegations

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  • Photo gallery: Fatal shootings in Shoreview

    Tuesday June 4, 2013

    Two people were shot to death and two others were wounded Tuesday morning in a Shoreview neighborhood, according to...

  • Scene in front of a single family home on the 5900 block of Grotto St. N, Shoreview, where two people were shot and killed Tuesday, June 4, 2013

  • Sullivan

  • Ramsey County sheriff’s investigators spent the day at the home where two people were killed.

  • If You Need help

    Carol Arthur, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Project, recommends that women trying to leave a relationship seek help from a domestic abuse agency or advocate to run through possible scenarios and solutions.

    “It’s not unusual for women, once they start talking to an advocate, to say, ‘…I didn’t realize how much there was, how long this has been going on, the ways my partner was abusive to me,’ ” Arthur said.

    Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week via:

    • Minnesota Domestic Violence Crisis Line, 1-866-223-1111

    Men who need to talk about issues and help handling breakups can call this 24-hour line:

    • Crisis Connection, The Men’s Line, 1-866-379-6367

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